Hope Center releases report on student basic needs insecurity during COVID-19

The report surveyed more than 38,000 students about their housing, food and job security amid the pandemic.

Temple's Hope Center for College, Community and Justice, based in Ritter Annex, surveyed students experiencing basic needs insecurities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. | JEREMY ELVAS / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Nearly 60 percent of college students surveyed experienced basic needs insecurity in a 30 day period this spring, according to a report outlining the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on students’ well-being by Temple University’s Hope Center for College, Community and Justice.

The report, written by Sara Goldrick-Rab, Vanessa Coca, Gregory Kienzl, Carrie Welton, Sonja Dahl and Sarah Magnelia, gathered data from April 20 to May 15 through an electronic survey filled out by over 38,000 students at 54 colleges and universities in 26 states. The response rate to the survey was 6.7 percent. 

Before the pandemic, students faced high college costs, low paying jobs and insufficient support from higher education and social policies, according to the report.

“With the emergence of COVID-19, the lives of students throughout higher education were substantially disrupted, practically overnight,” according to the report.

At two-year institutions, 44 percent of respondents experienced food insecurity and 36 percent of respondents experienced housing insecurity. Thirty-eight percent of respondents experienced food insecurity, and 41 percent experienced housing insecurity at four-year institutions, according to the report.

Eleven percent of respondents at two-year institutions and nearly 15 percent of respondents at four-year institutions experienced homelessness at the time of the survey. 

One in three employed students lost their job during the pandemic, the report also found. Students who lost their job or had hours cut experienced more basic needs insecurity than those students who did not. 

A Hope Center report from Fall 2019 found 42 percent of two-year students and 33 percent of four-year students experienced food insecurity. 

The Hope Center released several policy recommendations moving forward, including: federal and state policymakers should continue to invest in emergency aid for students; institutional appropriations from the state and federal government should apply to part-time students; federal requirements should be tied to work in public benefits programs, and make postsecondary education a highest priority; the Department of Education should ensure that students are receiving the highest financial aid possible; and the Department of Educations should reduce the administrative burden on universities.

The report found the basic needs gap between Black and white students was 19 percentage points, with 52 percent of white students experiencing basic needs insecurity, the lowest number of any racial group surveyed, and 71 percent of Black students experiencing basic needs insecurity. Seventy-four percent of students identifying as indigenous reported experiencing basic needs insecurity.

Many students did not know they were eligible for support, the report concluded, which resulted in 21 percent of respondents with basic needs insecurity applying for unemployment insurance, 15 percent applying for the Supplemental Assistance Program and 15 percent applying for emergency aid. 

Half of all respondents reported experiencing at least moderate anxiety. Half of the respondents at two-year institutions and 63 percent of respondents at four-year institutions also reported a lack of concentration on schoolwork during the pandemic. 

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