Credit: Alison Yin/EdSource

Students attending California’s 115 on-campus community colleges are now able to get help with their basic needs from a basic needs center and coordinator.

As of July 1, all of those colleges must have hired a basic needs coordinator to begin establishing a basic needs center at their campus. These centers, which can also be found on California State University and University of California campuses, offer a variety of resources such as food pantries, housing referrals and other financial support.

Several community college campuses in the state have long offered food and housing support, but an influx of funding is aimed at bringing additional services to every campus.

Have all California community college campuses opened a basic needs center?

All brick and mortar campuses, 115 out of 116, have either hired or identified staff on campus who will establish basic needs centers, according to Colleen Ganley, program specialist of educational services and support at the California Community College Chancellor’s Office.

All campuses have at least created a webpage on their site to inform students of the basic needs center on their campus. Students can typically find the center on their campus by going on their school website and searching for “basic needs center.” As the new requirement only recently went into effect, there is no single online repository yet of the centers across the college system.

Several campuses are also in the process of creating social media pages specific to their center and are training students to provide peer outreach.

“It’s important to recognize that this is a new initiative and that there is quite a bit of variation in terms of levels of implementation across the system,” said Ganley.

What types of resources and services can students expect to find at the basic needs center on their campus?

The resources offered differ from campus to campus, but most tend to help students who are experiencing housing and food insecurity. For most campuses, a food pantry is at the core of the services they offer. Centers are also expected to help students in need of housing.

Others also offer support with paying for auto insurance, finding low-cost medical care, paying for internet, applying for public benefits like Medi-Cal and CalFresh, financial literacy, accessing affordable internet, child care assistance, and more.

How are campuses notifying students of the basic needs center on their campus?

On one end, the Foundation for California Community Colleges runs an ambassador program where current community college students provide peer-to-peer outreach and help disseminate information about on-campus resources available to students.

Additionally, campuses are reaching out to students who previously used services, such as the campus food pantry, to let them know of new resources. To reach new students, some basic needs coordinators have scheduled speaking slots during orientations to introduce themselves to new students.

How much state funding has been allocated to supporting campuses in opening a basic needs center?

The community college system has received a one-time allocation of $100 million and a yearly allocation of $40 million to support coordinators.

Each campus received a base amount based on the total student population plus extra depending on the number of low-income students who receive the federal Pell Grant.

Why do California community colleges need basic needs centers?

Rebecca Ruan O’Shaughnessy, vice chancellor for educational services and support at the California Community College Chancellor’s Office, said pre-pandemic surveys describe the need: 60% were experiencing some form of housing insecurity with nearly 20% considered homeless.

Do California State University and University of California campuses also offer basic needs help?

All 23 California State University campuses and all 10 University of California campuses have a basic needs center. The CSU receives $15 million in recurring state funding, while the UC receives $18.5 million.

The campuses have each established their centers at various points over the last decade or so, but a UC-wide effort to establish food pantries at every campus went into effect in 2014. At CSU, every campus had established a food pantry by 2020. According to advocates, food support tends to be the core resource offered by basic needs centers, with further services added as funding and administrative support increase.

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