Study: Food, Housing Insecurity High Among Community College, Remedial Students

By Brittany Hackett, Communications Staff

About one-third of community college students struggle to meet their most basic needs, such as housing and food security, including a disproportionate number of students who are enrolled in remedial education, according to a new report.

The report, released by the Community College Equity Assessment Lab (CCEAL) at San Diego State University, is based on data from 3,647 students from California community college campuses that use the Stressful Life Events Scale. According to the data, 32.8 percent of students have experienced housing insecurity, including 31.8 percent of men and 33.9 percent of women. Just over 12 percent of students experienced food insecurity, including 15.4 percent of men and 8.7 percent of women. Just over 23 percent of students who experienced housing insecurity also experienced food insecurity.

When broken down by race or ethnicity, black and Southeast Asian students, particularly men, were more likely to be affected by these insecurities than other groups, and students who face these insecurities also tend to be older than their peers who do not face the same challenges. .

A large majority of students facing housing and food insecurity – 73.9 percent and 71 percent, percent – were also enrolled in remedial math courses. Similarly, 65.4 percent of students facing housing insecurity and 62.4 percent facing food insecurity were in remedial writing courses, and 59.7 percent of those facing housing insecurity and 57.8 percent facing food insecurity were enrolled in remedial reading courses.

Students facing housing and food insecurity also indicated stress caused by these challenges, including 37.9 percent of housing-insecure students and 48.9 percent of food-insecure students. And while a majority of these students have strong goals related to degree or certificate completion and updating their job skills, students with food insecurity are less likely to report being on track to achieving their goals and more likely to indicate an intention to drop out of college than those without food insecurity.

Typically, students who face food and housing insecurities are more likely to be engaged with faculty inside and outside of class, and those with food insecurity specifically are less likely to feel confident in their academic abilities or see college as worthwhile. They are also less likely to feel a sense of belonging from faculty, to report having access to student services, and to see campus services as a helpful resource.

CCEAL included several recommendations for campuses to address food and housing insecurities among their students including:

  • Create opportunities for students to participate with campus leadership on efforts to curb food and housing insecurity;
  • Establish campus food pantries and readily available snacks in student services locations that students can access;
  • Partner with community organizations to connect students with resources that can help them, including providing space on campus for the organizations to streamline aid and directly connect needy students;
  • Reconsider financial aid policies so that they remove barriers students may face, including streamlining information and processes to improve access to institutional, state, and federal aid resources;
  • Establish emergency funds that can be quickly disbursed to needy students; and 
  • Engage students in financial literacy and counseling through a more personalized, one-on-one model.


Publication Date: 12/6/2016

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