Back to Basics: Solving Today’s Students’ Food, Housing, and Basic Needs Insecurities

A basic needs policy toolkit for today’s students to succeed

Basic needs policy toolkit cover image

The Basic Facts on Unmet Essential Needs

A recent study found that three in five college students experienced insecurity in meeting their basic needs, such as housing and food. However, many federal safety net policies designed to support Americans in need were not created with today’s postsecondary students in mind.


Research now shows today’s students struggle to meet their basic needs

Higher Learning Advocates’ basic needs policy toolkit Back to Basics: Solving Today’s Students’ Food, Housing, and Basic Needs Insecurities identifies critical barriers to student success and proposes federal policy changes to better serve all students from all backgrounds and walks of life. Changing students’ stories from struggle to success is key to improving student outcomes in higher education. Federal policy can empower students through access to support for meeting their basic needs by:

  • Creating and funding a permanent emergency aid structure for students with unexpected financial challenges;
  • Expanding eligibility and streamlining Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for students pursuing higher learning;
  • Increasing funding for campus mental health programs;
  • Making broadband subsidies permanent and expanding rural broadband access;
  • Incentivizing collaboration between public transit providers and higher education institutions;
  • Expanding eligibility for the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program to full-time students experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity; and
  • Providing incentives to encourage non-expansion states to expand Medicaid coverage and extend temporary affordable care subsidies for marketplace insurance plans.


Download the toolkit here


Suicide prevention grants and money into emergency services directly saves lives. If it wasn’t for suicide prevention at my university, I don’t think I would have made it past my first year. In order to create space for students to be the changemakers of our next generation, we have to create avenues in which mental health and financial health are not separate, but equal in the eyes of Congress.

– Celia, student, University of Maine at Farmington

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