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Through a prior Spark Grant, Young Invincibles surveyed the largest higher education system in the nation, the California Community College (CCC) system, which is home to 1.6M students across 116 campuses. Their research sought to analyze compliance with the state’s basic needs mandate and found that 72% of campuses have an open Basic Needs Center–28% shy of the intended goal, although 22% of campuses are in the process of opening their centers at the time of publication. 

Since the CCC system is the largest in the nation, it is a fertile ground for testing processes and implementation plans for the state’s four-year public university systems; namely, the University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) campuses. For example, if the basic needs mandate is extended to four-year public universities then it has the potential to reach an additional 772,128 students on 32 campuses. Recognizing the significant potential to help students meet their basic needs and persist in their studies, Young Invincibles will use their 2022 Michelson Spark Grant to study what it will take to extend the basic needs mandate to these campuses. 

“Young Invincibles CCC research has sparked a statewide conversation regarding how we, as a state, can ensure student parents, first generation students, veterans, and students of color have access to a Basic Needs Center, regardless of which CCC campus they attend,” Miguel Leon, Director of Programs and Strategic Initiatives at the Michelson 20MM Foundation shared. “By expanding the research to include public four-year universities, Young Invincibles will equip leaders with the tools they need to take action on campus and serve as a trailblazer for other states to follow, creating a national ripple effect.”

Using a student-centered approach, Young Invincibles will seek to understand how students learn about existing basic needs programs, what compels them to engage or not engage with the programs, and how the programs might lead to completion. This approach will fill an existing gap in understanding since all 10 UC campuses have a Basic Needs Center, but only 48,000 students take advantage of the services–a fraction of the student body. Additionally, Young Invincibles will employ research methods to reach rural students, who are often among the least likely to enroll in postsecondary educational programs.

By executing multiple cross-sectional surveys of diverse student populations at various points in time, Young Invincibles will establish a robust dataset specifically designed to paint an accurate picture of the student basic needs crisis among public four-year university students in California and the opportunities that exist to help them. In addition to serving all of California’s public higher education systems, we look forward to seeing Young Invincible’s forthcoming recommendations adopted in California’s private institutions and in universities throughout the nation as more states implement basic needs center mandates. 

Michelson 20MM is a private, nonprofit foundation seeking to accelerate progress towards a more just world through grantmaking, operating programs, and impact investing. Co-chaired and funded by Alya and Gary Michelson, Michelson 20MM is part of the Michelson Philanthropies network of foundations.

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