Story Graduation Initiative

Student Success Supported Through University-Wide Basic Needs Initiative

Elizabeth Chapin



With student engagement and well-being an operational priority that the California State University is working to improve through its Graduation Initiative 2025 efforts, the CSU has ramped up efforts to address food and housing insecurity among students through a Basic Needs Initiative.

"Part of helping students succeed and graduate on time means providing for their basic needs including food and housing," said Denise Bevly, CSU's director of Student Wellness. "We are committed to taking a holistic look at the student experience and addressing a wide spectrum of issues that impact students' ability to be successful and receive a quality education."

In 2015, CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White commissioned a snapshot study to shed light on how CSU campuses were meeting the needs of displaced and food insecure students and to offer recommendations to ensure success and graduation for these students. This study, led by CSU Long Beach professor Rashida Crutchfield, helped to establish the Basic Needs Initiative.

At their November 2017 meeting, the CSU Board of Trustees received an update on how campuses have taken more action to meet students' immediate needs in the wake of the study. All 23 campuses now have a food pantry or food distribution program and a number of them have emergency housing programs. In addition, several have made it easier for students to get access to resources through dedicated campus staff and websites.

The report also covered how the initiative is helping to grow campus-based basic needs programs to reach additional students. One of these ways is through Senate Bill 85 and its corresponding $2.5 million allocation for CSU campuses to develop and enhance food pantries, meal sharing programs and outreach for benefits including CalFresh.

The CSU is also developing strategies to adopt campus best practices on a systemwide level. For example, the Chancellor's Office has partnered with Chico State to replicate the campus' successful CalFresh outreach program on 11 other CSU campuses.

"We view this program as a win for all," said Chico State President Gayle Hutchinson. "Students who receive CalFresh assistance are seeking a college education even though they face hard financial choices. We believe this will enhance persistence to degree, shorten time to graduation, decrease dropout rates and increase the likelihood that students will graduate."

Trustees also received an update on how partnerships with the University of California and California Community College systems, as well as internal CSU groups such as the CSU Alumni Council and the California State Student Association are helping to drive the Basic Needs Initiative.

The CSU is hosting its annual Basic Needs Conference at Sacramento State in February, during which faculty, staff and students from throughout the CSU will collaborate on additional ways of addressing student food and housing insecurity.