The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice
#RealCollege 2021: Basic Needs Insecurity During the Ongoing PandemicEntering the fall 2020 term, higher education was reeling from the coronavirus pandemic. Enrollment was down—particularly among students most at risk of basic needs insecurity; fewer students had completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA); and college retention rates had dropped. Students and faculty were stressed and anxious. By the end of the term, more than 267,000 Americans died. At the same time, the federal government pumped an unprecedented $6 billion into student emergency aid via the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This report examines the pandemic’s impact on #RealCollege students who were able to continue their education in this challenging environment. Using our sixth annual #RealCollege Survey, fielded in fall 2020, we assessed students’ basic needs security and their well-being, as indicated by employment status, academic engagement, and mental health. In total, over 195,000 students from 130 two-year colleges and 72 four-year colleges and universities responded to the 2020 #RealCollege Survey.
Securing the Basic Needs of College Students in Greater Philadelphia During a Pandemic: A #RealCollegePHL ReportPhiladelphia-area colleges and universities were reeling from the coronavirus pandemic as they entered fall 2020. Mirroring national trends, enrollment was down, particularly among those students most at risk of basic needs insecurity; fewer students completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA); and college retention rates dropped. Students and faculty were stressed and anxious. By the end of the term, local hospitals spent weeks caring for almost a thousand Philadelphians suffering with and often dying from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. This report examines how Philadelphia-area students and institutions fared during that exceptionally challenging time. The data come from our sixth-annual #RealCollege Survey, which assessed students’ experiences of food and housing insecurity, homelessness, employment, mental health, and academic engagement. While past work by The Hope Center indicates that more than half of area two-year students and about one-third of area four-year students experience food and/or housing insecurity, and more than one in 10 experience homelessness, this report sheds light on the unique challenges faced in 2020 during the pandemic. The report is part of our #RealCollegePHL project, which aims to document basic needs insecurity among area college students and to bolster institutional and community efforts to address those needs. In the Philadelphia region, the survey was distributed to more than 82,700 students attending 13 colleges and universities, and taken by 8,953 students, yielding an estimated response rate of 11%.
A First Look at Impacts of the College Housing Assistance Program at Tacoma Community CollegeAffording living expenses presents a major barrier to degree completion for many community college students. Food, affordable housing, transportation, and childcare are central conditions for learning. Yet with stagnant incomes, rising tuition and living costs, and insufficient support from financial aid and the social safety net, approximately one in two community college students struggle to afford these basic needs. Additionally, as many as one in five experience homelessness. The College Housing Assistance Program (CHAP), operated by the Tacoma Housing Authority (THA) and Tacoma Community College (TCC), is at the forefront of the nationwide fight to ameliorate homelessness among college students. CHAP is one of the country’s first partnerships between a housing authority and a community college and offers a unique model. In contrast to other programs such as student-run shelters, rapid-rehousing, and college-owned affordable apartments, CHAP utilizes government-subsidized housing assistance to provide housing to homeless and near-homeless community college students. This report offers the initial lessons learned from the first external evaluation of CHAP. Successful program implementation is crucial to providing benefits for students, and can be especially challenging in housing programs. We therefore focus on how students experienced the program, where they faced barriers, and where they found support. It is too early in the evaluation process to draw conclusions about the program’s efficacy; these are short-term insights.
Impact of Transportation Supports on Students’ Academic Outcomes: A Quasi-Experimental Study of the U-Pass at Rio Hondo CollegeFor many students, transportation presents a barrier to college completion. In 2020–21, the average commuter student could expect to spend nearly one-fifth of their total living expenses on transportation costs. Transportation programs have the potential to offer students some relief—and help them reach college graduation—yet more rigorous research on these programs’ benefits is needed. This brief provides results from a quasi-experimental study on the impact of transportation supports on short- and longer-term academic outcomes for community college students at Rio Hondo College. Established in 2016 as a partnership between the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Agency (LA Metro) and participating area colleges and universities, including Rio Hondo College, the Universal College Student Transit Pass (U-Pass) provides college students with deeply discounted transit fares. Findings from this study suggest that transportation supports like U-Pass offer a promising strategy for increasing the likelihood that students will: remain enrolled one semester and one year later; complete a greater number of credits; and, earn a credential. While more research on similar programs is needed, these findings suggest that free- and reduced-cost transit fares could play a critical role in helping students earn college credentials.