City Colleges Adds Emergency Fund and Housing Coordinator to Comprehensive Set of Student Supports

According to a report released today by the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice at Temple University’s College of Education, 64% of the City Colleges of Chicago students surveyed expressed food or housing insecurity. City Colleges of Chicago’s Chancellor Juan Salgado unveiled the results as he introduced additional measures to address some of the challenges the city’s community college students face outside of the classroom, including an emergency fund and a dedicated housing coordinator.

The national survey found that 44 percent of the City Colleges students who responded to the survey were food insecure in the prior 30 days, 54 percent were housing insecure in the previous year, and 15 percent of respondents were homeless in the previous year. More than 3,000 students from the seven colleges participated in the survey, or six percent of the 47,000 students enrolled in the Fall 2018 semester. The #RealCollege Survey was created and administered by the Hope Center, led by Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab—the nation’s leading expert on basic needs insecurity among college students—and yielded results similar to the center’s findings in other cities, states, and nationally.

“This survey confirms what we have observed – that many of our students are managing significant responsibilities and bravely facing food and housing challenges while they work hard to complete college,” said Chancellor Salgado. “We continue to expand our support services and work in close partnership with community resources to ensure our students can focus on their classwork, rather than meeting their basic needs.”

“Our partners at the City Colleges are working proactively to address food and housing insecurity among their students,” said Dr. Goldrick-Rab, Founding Director of the Hope Center and Professor of Higher Education Policy and Sociology at Temple University. “They deserve far more support from the city and the state of Illinois.”

City Colleges has launched an emergency fund for unforeseen, one-time crises, which is now available to students on a first-come, first-served basis. The fund is administered by the non-profit All Chicago and made possible by an anonymous donor. It seeks to aid students who face unexpected roadblocks that would otherwise keep them from completing their degree by providing students up to $750 per semester. City Colleges is also adding a new housing coordinator, made possible by a $70,000 grant from Chicago Community Trust, who will help connect students to housing resources within sister agencies and community-based organizations.

These newest initiatives are in addition to the resources City Colleges already offers, including Wellness Centers offering social/emotional support, Veterans Services Centers, Disability Access Centers, permanent food pantries in partnership with the Greater Chicago Food Depository at five colleges with the additional two opening this fall; and scholarships for unique populations, such as eligible CPS students and Chicago Housing Authority residents.
According to The Hope Center’s report, rates of basic needs insecurity at City Colleges are higher for marginalized students, including African Americans, students identifying as LGBTQ, and students who are independent from their parents or guardians for financial aid purposes. Students who have served in the military, former foster youth, and students who were formally convicted of a crime are all at greater risk of basic needs insecurity.
Academically, while most students reported receiving A’s and B’s, students who experience food insecurity or homelessness reported grades of C or below at slightly higher rates than students who did not have these experiences.
Working during college is not associated with a lower risk of basic needs insecurity, and neither is receiving the federal Pell Grant; in fact, receiving the Pell Grant is associated with higher rates of basic needs insecurity. The CCC students experiencing basic needs insecurity are overwhelmingly part of the labor force. For example, the vast majority of students who experienced food insecurity were employed or looking for work. Similarly, the majority of students who experienced housing insecurity or homelessness were employed or looking for work. Also, among working students, those who experienced basic needs insecurity worked more hours than other students.
The federal government recognized the seriousness of unaddressed basic needs insecurity when the U.S. Government Accountability Office released a report on college food insecurity. Both the GAO report and the new #RealCollege report found that many students eligible for public assistance are not receiving support from those programs. The GAO estimates that 57% of students at risk of food insecurity and eligible for SNAP did not collect those benefits. The Hope Center finds that only one in three food insecure students at CCC schools receive SNAP. Likewise, only 9% of students who experienced homelessness in the past year receive housing assistance.
The #RealCollege survey, which specifically evaluates access to affordable food and housing, began in 2015 under the Wisconsin HOPE Lab, and is supported by the Lumina Foundation.