Higher educational institutions should be a place where students can pursue knowledge and thrive academically without barriers. As students balance classes, assignments, exams, and other academic responsibilities, they are often simultaneously struggling with homelessness, financial instability, and food insecurity. When basic needs are unmet, the foundation of education is eroded–we cannot separate the pursuit of knowledge from essential support. 

Knowing that tens of thousands of undergraduate students in California struggle to meet their basic needs, we are excited to surface and support projects that change this reality. This year, the 2023 Student Basic Needs Spark Grants funding cycle provided an opportunity for organizations whose work impacts California and is in-line with the below focus areas to obtain grants up to $25,000:

  • Leveraging technology solutions to maximize and measure the effectiveness and efficiency of basic needs supports and capture student academic success. 
  • Incorporating basic needs within the campus culture and climate. This could include efforts that strengthen the continuum of care for students’ basic needs. 
  • Innovative approaches and promising practices that promote positive academic outcomes for students receiving direct financial assistance aimed at mitigating student basic needs concerns. This could include research, evaluation, or efforts that scale the impact of public benefits assistance, tax credits for eligible students, universal basic income, and approaches to liquidating institutional HEERF dollars.

We are ecstatic to welcome three grantees: Believe in Students, Foundation for the Los Angeles Community Colleges, and the Student Basic Needs Coalition! 

Believe in Students’ #RealCollege Curriculum leverages learnings from  the traditionally offered#RealCollege Convening, which has helped hundreds of higher education professionals understand and tackle basic needs insecurity. To further the accessibility and reach of the curriculum, Believe in Students will leverage a Spark Grant to transform the impactful curriculum into an online offering. Through the digital medium, and with the support of longtime California partners and advocates, Believe in Students anticipates reaching professionals who serve at least 20,000 students and will advance student persistence as a result. 

One in five California Community College students experience homelessness. While many attempts to address student homelessness have been siloed, the Foundation for the Los Angeles Community Colleges plans to understand how to cross-house students across California’s higher educational systems with the goal of establishing a scalable housing solution. Home to 220,000 students, with strong ties to the California State University system, the Los Angeles Community College District is uniquely positioned to identify and incubate the solution.

The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice found that 69% of college students who are potentially eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are not receiving benefits, and only 1:5 students experiencing basic needs insecurity are enrolled in SNAP. To improve access to this very important benefit, the Student Basic Needs Coalition will expand its SNAP into Action campaign in California. SNAP Into Action is a student-led outreach and enrollment approach based on peer-to-peer connectivity. By empowering student leaders to help other students enroll for benefits, the Student Basic Needs Coalition will lessen the stigma associated with SNAP and increase SNAP enrollment in five of California’s postsecondary campuses, which could be replicated across the state.

Stay tuned for the impact of their grants in the coming year!

Michelson 20MM is a private, nonprofit foundation working toward equity for underserved and historically underrepresented communities by expanding access to educational and employment opportunities, increasing affordability of educational programs, and ensuring the necessary supports are in place for individuals to thrive. To do so, we work in the following verticals: Digital Equity, Intellectual Property, Smart Justice, Student Basic Needs, and Open Educational Resources (OER). Co-chaired and funded by Alya and Gary Michelson, Michelson 20MM is part of the Michelson Philanthropies network of foundations.

To sign up for our newsletter, click here