Dear Colleges and Universities: Here’s An Opportunity You Should Seize

Basic needs security. Heard of it? If you are a college or university, you should. It means that your students have sufficient housing and food so that they are ready to learn.

Are your students’ basic needs secure? How do you know?

You probably don’t. So we are here to help.

Last fall, the Wisconsin HOPE Lab fielded a groundbreaking survey at 70 community colleges around the country in order to assess rates of food and housing insecurity among community college students. The survey was funded by the Kresge Foundation, and our partner, the Association of Community College Trustees, was amazing. We produced a report, Hungry and Homeless in College, that revealed one in three community college students experienced hunger, half of community college students were housing insecure, and 14 percent were homeless. That study built on several prior studies we conducted with community college students and students at public four-year colleges, including Hungry to Learn, a study discussed in the New York Times.

These surveys are shaping a national conversation about students’ basic needs and the challenge we face in improving college retention. Institutions are using the data to support fundraising efforts, rethink programming, and advance state and federal policies.

We invite you to join us this year’s survey. This opportunity is open to any college or university in the United States, regardless of sector or type. We all have students who deserve attention to the security of their basic needs.

Your college will receive a short report on its results and we will also produce a national report, aggregating all data, and not share the data associated with your institution with anyone.

Here’s what you need to know and do:

The survey instrument is relatively short and was constructed by the Wisconsin HOPE Lab based on our extensive experience studying vulnerable students. It will be fielded in fall 2017 via an online platform. Thanks again to Kresge for helping us get this off the ground! But while last year’s survey was funded, this year’s will not be — we are doing this on our own. Participating colleges must agree to administer the survey in the first 4–6 weeks of fall semester by sending at least three prescribed email invitations with survey links to all enrolled students. Students must be encouraged to join the survey in order to obtain useful results. Therefore, participating institutions must provide $1,000 in incentives to students.

The deadline to join this year’s survey is THURSDAY JUNE 1.

To join, email Anthony Hernandez at the Wisconsin HOPE Lab at with subject line “FALL SURVEY.”

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