Understanding the Basic Needs Crisis

A spring 2023 study found that nearly 2/3 of all California Community College students face at least one basic needs insecurity. A key recommendation in the study was to equip all faculty and staff members to truly understand the experience of today’s diverse college students, as well as the distinct challenges they face. The Michelson 20MM Foundation is excited to award a Spark Grant to Believe in Students as they work to center the voices of these students, while educating faculty and staff members through the #RealCollege Curriculum. 

#RealCollege Is Coming Online, Reaching Thousands of Educators and Students

For eight years, the #RealCollege movement has shared research, best practices, and policy recommendations in a variety of real-time formats, including annual in-person conferences. These convenings have proved to be an invaluable learning opportunity for attendees, but also were limited in reach due to the in-person medium. Through a Spark Grant, Believe in Students will create an online offering of the curriculum, resulting in an equitable, multigenerational learning environment for campus leaders of all levels in higher education to collaborate.

To do so, together with Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab, Dr. Jesse Stommel, and Never Whisper Justice, Believe in Students will create three modules on basic needs insecurity among college students. Once finalized, the curriculum will be deployed within five to 10 campuses in Southern California, reaching professionals who serve at least 20,000 students. Within three years, Believe in Students anticipates having thousands of professionals enrolled in the course, impacting at least 250,000 students.

Students as Teachers: How #RealCollege with Center Their Voices

A unique and highly important feature of the curriculum is the prioritization of student voices. As part of the #RealCollege Curriculum, students serve as instructors, sharing their valuable perspectives and lived experiences dealing with basic needs insecurity as instructors in the modules. The students include those who are first-generation, low-income, people of color, single parents, veterans, former foster youth, undocumented immigrants, formerly incarcerated, and LGBTQIA+ individuals, who have struggled with housing and food insecurity, homelessness and other basic needs insecurity issues. Additionally, a student advisory board, featuring impacted students, will help guide the deployment of future content and will be participants in promoting the curriculum. In collaboration with faculty leaders, students help to guide higher ed professionals in elevating awareness about basic needs insecurity and develop holistic strategies to elicit institutional changes that center today’s highly diverse college population.

To measure the success of the curriculum, Believe in Students will work towards the following outcomes:

  1. Students will feel more supported and have an increased sense of belonging in college.
  2. Students will see improvement in academic outcomes that lead to increased persistence and completion.
  3. Students will be more likely to persist in college.
  4. Graduation rates will increase, especially on campuses where the curriculum is widely used.

By providing an opportunity for faculty members to understand the deeper structural issues causing basic needs insecurity among their students, campuses will be better suited to ensure student parents can succeed. We look forward to sharing more in the year to come!

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.

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