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Minnesota State releases basic needs survey

Posted March 5, 2020

Food Pantry

Metropolitan State student Pang Xiong picks out groceries at the Food for Thought Food Pantry in St. Paul on Wednesday, March 4, 2020. Food for Thought provides groceries and grab-and-go food to any Metropolitan State student who lacks financial resources or who is experiencing food insecurity. (Scott Takushi / Pioneer Press)

Cash grants, food pantries help MN college students with basic needs. Survey finds over half struggle (Pioneer Press, March 5, 2020).

ST. PAUL, Minn.  – The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice released the results of the 2020 #RealCollege survey of students at 28 Minnesota State colleges and universities. The survey, which is an assessment of basic needs insecurity among college students, shows that 37 percent of respondents were food insecure in the prior 30 days, 48 percent were housing insecure in the previous year, and 18% experienced homelessness during the previous year. The study was part of the fifth annual #RealCollege nationwide survey conducted by the Hope Center.
“Successful completion of a degree or certificate program is challenging enough for any student, but it is particularly difficult for students who are hungry or do not have a place to live,” said Devinder Malhotra, chancellor of Minnesota State. “The success of our students is a primary focus of all of our colleges and universities, so connecting students to resources to help them meet basic needs is intrinsic to our commitment to our students and our obligations to meet the workforce needs of Minnesota.” 
“It is clear that college is now about serious financial struggles, not partying,” said Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab, founding director of the Hope Center and the leading expert on basic needs insecurity among college students. “Money weighs heavily on students’ minds, and without a safe place to sleep and enough to eat they cannot concentrate on learning.”
All Minnesota State colleges and universities have some form of program in place to help address food insecurity. These programs include a food pantry or other program that provides food to students (such as mobile food pantries or making food available in common areas), or intentional partnerships with community organizations that address food insecurity.
Many Minnesota State colleges and universities have developed innovative programs to help students meet their basic needs. Examples include:
  • Central Lakes College relocated, expanded, and rebranded their food pantry, and secured grants from Second Harvest North Central Food Bank and Crow Wing Energized to purchase refrigeration equipment and new shelving. Through new partnerships with local Costco and Target stores, the food pantry at Central Lakes College now rescues an average of 2,500 lbs. of quality food each month and orders another 2,500 Ibs. from Second Harvest North Central each month. CLC’s #RealCollege survey data shows that the food-insecure student population decreased from 48% in 2018 to 41% in 2019.
  • North Hennepin Community College offers the Random Acts of Kindness Emergency Grant program. Funded by private donors, the program offers up to $500 to students who are experiencing financial hardship and who have an unforeseen financial barrier such as a car repair, medical costs, child care, transportation, food bills, urgent rent support to avoid eviction, or other needs they cannot meet. Since 2011, nearly $75,000 has been distributed benefitting over 200 students.
  • St. Cloud State University re-opened Stearns Hall as a “no-frills” housing option branded as “Simply Stearns” with rates that start at $404 per month (including high-speed internet and utilities). Features of this housing option are specially designed to make on-campus living more affordable and flexible. The hall is also open during all break periods to ensure housing remains secure and available for residents.
  • Dakota County Technical College created the Office of Social Navigation in Fall 2017 and staffed it with a Resources Navigator to address the overall basic needs and wellness of students. Through the work and support of DCTC Foundation, emergency grants and micro grants are available to students who are facing a financial barrier or crisis. In situations where campus resources are not enough, students are referred to community agencies such as 360Communities, Community Action Partnership (CAP), Goodwill, Salvation Army, Neighbors, Inc., and People Incorporated.
The Hope Center report also shows that significant disparities in basic needs insecurity exist according to race and ethnicity, as well as other demographic, academic, and economic characteristics. “This shows that addressing disparities in basic needs insecurity is certainly consistent with, if not critical to, achieving the goal of our Equity 2030 initiative: eliminating educational equity gaps,” said Malhotra.
The #RealCollege survey for Minnesota was conducted at 28 colleges and universities of Minnesota State. Approximately 9,812 students attending the participating colleges and universities responded to the survey.
The Hope Center defines food insecurity as the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe food, or the ability to acquire such food in a socially acceptable manner. Housing insecurity includes a broad set of challenges such as the inability to pay rent or utilities or the need to move frequently. Homelessness means that a person does not have a stable place to live.
The Minnesota State colleges and universities that participated in the 2020 #RealCollege survey include:
Alexandria Technical and Community College
Anoka Technical College
Anoka-Ramsey Community College
Central Lakes College (Brainerd and Staples campuses)
Dakota County Technical College
Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College
Hennepin Technical College
Hibbing Community College
Inver Hills Community College
Itasca Community College
Mesabi Range College
Minneapolis College
Minnesota State College Southeast
Minnesota State Community and Technical College
Normandale Community College
North Hennepin Community College
Northland Community and Technical College
Northwest Technical College
Rainy River Community College
Ridgewater College
Riverland Community College
Rochester Community and Technical College
Saint Paul College
St. Cloud Technical and Community College
Metropolitan State University
Minnesota State University Moorhead
Southwest Minnesota State University
Minnesota State includes 30 community and technical colleges and seven state universities serving approximately 350,000 students. It is the third-largest system of two-year colleges and four-year universities in the United States.