Today, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced a new $198 million grant opportunity and new guidance on how colleges can use American Recue Plan Grant funds to meet students’ basic needs such as housing and food security; and guidance on how colleges can use existing data to connect students to other federal benefits, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Affordable Connectivity Program at the Federal Communications Commission.
"We are heartened that the Department of Education has taken note of the prevalence of unmet basic needs among college students," said ACCT President and CEO Jee Hang Lee. "A growing body of research from ACCT and partners such as the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice has brought to light the struggles that a tremendous share of community college students face, struggles that have been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic."
A 2017 study from ACCT, Hope Center Founder Sara Goldrick-Rab and Wisconsin HOPE Lab partners revealed that one in three community college students experiences hunger, half lack secure housing, and 14 percent had been homeless while enrolled in college.
"This and other research have demonstrated the astonishing reality that many community college students have to choose between eating, sleeping indoors or enrolling in classes," Lee said. "We now understand that academic underperformance and dropping out of college oftentimes are caused by financial and other disadvantages and not by a lack potential. We encourage our member institutions to take advantage of this opportunity to improve students' lives by applying to this new grant and utilizing the guidance to find models and best practices on how institutions can rise to the challenge and better support students and inform them of programs available to them, including participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.”
"ACCT applauds the Department of Education for this much needed infusion of federal resources and guidance, and we applaud our members and the academic researchers who have ardently voiced a need for this type of support," said Lee. "Efforts like these are revolutionary for community colleges and life-changing for their students."