The Democratic Party proposes legislation to help students meet basic needs


One day in the last school year, Byanca Moore realized that she needed help. Juniors at Lemoyne College in Syracuse, New York, need to pay for medical expenses, but they have no food to eat.So she turned to the college’s Jesuit Fund, To provide students with emergency funding of up to $500. Moore applied for assistance and got what she needed.

“They do care about students, they know what you need,” Moore said. “This is very helpful.”

But Moore pointed out that the Jesuit Fund is just a quick solution. Facing financial challenges, she and her classmates need more long-term solutions.

This is what Rep. Norma Torres, a Democrat from California, realized when one of her sons made four sandwiches for a two-hour course at his community college.

“I looked at him like,’Will you eat all of this?'” Torres told Inside higher education“He said,’No, it’s not for me, Mom. There are so many kids there all day, but there is no money to eat, so I’m making it for them.'”

According to the University, Community, and Justice Hope Center Recent basic needs surveyOf the 195,000 students who responded, nearly three-fifths said that they have experienced basic needs insecurity, and hope the center will define it as a lack of an ecosystem that can ensure student needs-such as getting enough food, safety Housing, health care, and affordable technology and transportation — all are satisfied. 39% of two-year colleges and 29% of four-year college students have experienced food insecurity, and a total of 48% of students have experienced housing insecurity.

Compared with white peers, students of color are more likely to experience basic needs insecurity. For students in two- and four-year colleges, 75% of Native students, 70% of black students, and 64% of Hispanic or Latino students have experienced basic needs insecurity, compared with the percentage of white students Is 54%.

“Students cannot choose between paying tuition and non-tuition fees,” said Mamie Voight, the interim chairman of the Higher Education Policy Institute. “These non-tuition fees can become a real obstacle for students to succeed in college.”

After talking to the students and understanding how many of them had difficulty meeting their basic needs, Torres introduced the University Student Basic Assistance Act or the Basic Act in the House of Representatives in 2019, led by then Senator Kamala Harris The bill was enacted in the Senate. Torres proposed an updated version of the legislation in early June. Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts and Democratic Senator Alex Padilla from California accepted the bill in the Senate. So far, these bills lack the support of any Republicans.

“The last thing college students should worry about is where their next meal will come from,” Torres said. “They should worry about studying, the next class and finishing homework.”

This Basic Law A $1 billion grant program will be established to help higher education institutions identify and meet student needs, including food, housing, transportation, childcare, and technology. It authorizes US$40 million in two-year program grants to help universities research and plans to address unmet basic needs of students, and provides a five-year implementation grant of US$960 million for institutions to develop basic needs infrastructure.

The legislation stipulates several ways that funds must be used, such as providing free or subsidized food, providing temporary housing, helping students apply for public assistance programs, or cooperating with community organizations. At least 25% of the planning and implementation grants will be required for community colleges, and priority will be given to minority service agencies and those that enroll 25% or more of students as Pell grant recipients.

The bill will also promote data sharing among federal agencies — including the Department of Education, Agriculture, Housing and Urban Development, and the Department of Health and Human Services — to identify students who may be eligible for federal aid and help them obtain such Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, and Federal Housing Assistance and Child Care Programs.

“This is why the project exists-to help people meet their basic needs,” Water said. “And we should make sure that students can actually access them. Data sharing will allow this to happen.”

The BASIC Act has been endorsed by more than a dozen organizations, including the American Association of Community Colleges, the Association of Hispanic Universities, IHEP, and the Hope Center.

Carrie Welton, director of advocacy and policy at the Hope Center, said that over the past five years, the momentum for federal-level solutions to the challenges faced by college students has been increasing. Voight said it is important for leaders within the federal government to recognize and promote the basic needs barriers faced by students.

“It is increasingly recognized as an important issue, and given the needs of our economy, it makes sense,” Welton said. “The vast majority of new jobs created require some form of higher education certificate.”

Voight said this issue is largely related to completion and national competitiveness. If students cannot complete their higher education certificates or degrees because they cannot meet their basic needs, there will be no educated people in the United States who can compete on the global stage.

“If we want to achieve completion goals, if we want to achieve our competitiveness goals, if we want to ensure that students can get a return from higher education, then we need to address these non-tuition costs for students,” Watt said.

Any federal support that can help the organization establish basic needs infrastructure will be welcomed by Marchetta Evans, president of Bloomfield College in Bloomfield, New Jersey. Bloomfield College is a Hispanic service organization and also The only four-year institution in New Jersey that is predominantly black. The median household income of students at the University of New Jersey is just over $30,000.

“This is a huge fight for them,” Evans said. “Before the pandemic, many of my students were dealing with food insecurity and housing insecurity.”

During the pandemic, Bloomfield College decided not to completely close the campus because many students need to stay in campus dorms. The college is able to use funds from the CARES Act to help meet the technical needs of students, and has two food storage rooms on campus that are maintained through donations. Evans said that this is very helpful to students, but the college can always use more resources to do more for them.

“If your body is not fed, it will be difficult for your brain to be fed,” Evans said. “Let our students ensure that their basic needs are met-this must be the first priority.”

Padilla is pushing for the BASIC bill to be included in the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, but it is unclear whether this will happen during the 117th Congress. At the same time, Padilla is working to include a $20 million basic needs pilot program in the funding language in fiscal year 2022.

Padilla said in a statement: “As the poverty crisis among college and graduate students continues to intensify, the Basic Law is a key step in expanding opportunities for higher education by ensuring that students do not go hungry or cannot afford basic necessities.” Inside higher education.

Although students will be able to obtain additional federal support through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund during the COVID-19 pandemic, Moore emphasized that the end of the pandemic does not mean the end of the affordability challenges faced by students.

“A few years later, this is still challenging for us,” Moore said. “There are a lot of black and brown students like me who need attention and help. If I need to help, I will help. I hope we can help because it is needed.”


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