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Our Work

Anti-Poverty & Basic Needs

The struggle to access food, housing and childcare is a major barrier to college access and completion, particularly among students of color and those from low-income backgrounds. When basic needs are met, students are better able to focus on academics, care for their families, complete their course of study and, ultimately, obtain employment that paves the way for long-term success.

Yet, according to data released in July 2023 by the National Center of Education Statistics (NCES) at the U.S. Department of Education, the food insecurity rate among college students is three times higher than the general population. Overall, according to the Hope Center’s analysis of the NCES data, 22.6 percent of undergraduates (nearly 4 million students) and 12.2 percent of graduates (more than 1.5 million students) are experiencing food insecurity. The food insecurity rate is 16.6 percentage points higher for Black students than for white students and, when compared to the general student population, is higher at historically Black colleges and universities (38.8%), tribal colleges and universities (35.5%), and for-profit institutions (32.9%).

Student Defense is committed to reducing the number of students experiencing food insecurity. The first step in this work is to ensure that the students who are eligible for public benefits actually receive them. According to a 2018 GAO Report, nearly 2 million of the approximately 3.3 million students eligible to participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) do not participate, leaving about $3 billion in SNAP benefits untapped each year.[1] In other words, among potentially SNAP eligible low-income students, nearly 60 percent do not even participate in the program. This gap in access has a dramatic impact on educational equity and the completion rates of low-income and minority students.

Working with state and federal agencies and organizations, Student Defense is thinking creatively to find new ways to streamline student access to SNAP and other public benefits. As we navigate the impacts of the pandemic and strive to enhance accessibility to vital resources, we must ensure that all students are aware of and easily able to obtain the benefits available to them.