“I can’t afford the parking decal.”
This comment from one of the students seeking emergency aid struck me, because when I was a student, I too was short of the funds for the parking pass, and so walked the mile between my apartment and campus every day. Like so many of our students, I didn’t consider myself “basic needs insecure,” I just thought I was living a romantic “broke college student” life.
But as we know, today, the cost of college has spiraled out of control.
The student I mentioned was working two jobs while trying to earn their degree and receiving no financial aid. Today’s college students are caregivers, adult learners, part-time enrollees, not-native English speakers, and all sorts of other identities that have different strengths, motivations, and needs than previous generations like mine. We know that far too many students are living on the financial edge, doing without basic needs that could help their chances of success, and are just one unexpected medical bill or car repair from giving up on their educational goals entirely.
While the federal government has made extraordinary investments in addressing the basic needs of students and all people during the pandemic, our students dealt with these challenges before the pandemic, and will still do so once those federal supports disappear. Like nearly everything else in our society, these challenges are not equally faced, with large disparities by race. In just one example, a recent report from our partners at the Hope Centerfocusing on student parents found that nearly all single Black and LatinX students who are parents faced basic needs insecurity.
Plainly: this is unacceptable.
At Believe in Students, we are working hard to meet those needs, primarily by providing easy, stigma-free emergency aid. In fact, the support our small team of staff and volunteers have provided is pretty remarkable. At the same time, we know that true solutions require our systems to change to better support today’s students. So this year we are increasing our efforts to bring these students’ voices forward into policy conversations at the institutional, state, and federal levels, to help create systems that are better prepared to support the students they serve today. We know you are our friends and champions in this effort, and we thank you!
It’s hard to be anything but be motivated and inspired to make change when you hear from these amazing students. Last fall, Course Hero helped tell the stories of three incredible students who had been supported by our FAST Fund network partners. In January, the American Federation of Teachers profiledsome of the students supported by our FAST Fund at Milwaukee Area Technical College. These students represent the American Dream, and we consider it our privilege and our imperative to do all we can to show how much we believe in them.
In the coming months you’ll see more from us to elevate student voices, and renewed campaigns to deliver emergency aid and other supports as federal funding comes to an end. Please reach out if you have any questions, or ideas of ways we can extend our reach.