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Addressing Basic Needs in Higher Education: Expert Solutions

4 Tips For Addressing Basic Needs

Students face more than just academic challenges. Basic needs insecurity—struggles with food, housing, and other essentials—has become a pressing issue, impacting student success and well-being. Addressing these fundamental needs is critical for fostering an environment where all students can thrive. In this blog, two experts give insights and practical solutions to combat basic needs insecurity, ensuring every student has the support they need to succeed academically and personally. Join us as we explore innovative strategies and real-world examples that make a difference in students' lives nationwide.

Defining Basic Needs Insecurity

One of the key challenges in addressing basic needs insecurity is the lack of a universal definition. Amanda Key and Dr. Smith shared their perspectives. Amanda emphasized that basic needs insecurity encompasses the lack of essential resources like food, housing, transportation, childcare, mental health services, and physical safety. She notes that it's about the fear of not having these resources, which forces students to make tough choices, such as choosing between putting gas in their car or eating for the day. Philip added that at Rutgers, basic needs insecurity includes food, housing, childcare, mental health, financial resources, and transportation. Millions of college students experience these challenges annually. At Rutgers, efforts are focused on connecting students with on-campus and community resources to address these needs comprehensively.

Addressing Basic Needs At Different Institutions

The approaches to tackling basic needs insecurity can vary significantly depending on the type of institution and its location. Amanda highlighted that after the pandemic, mental health services became a significant challenge. At Piedmont, they provide a range of support services, including food and clothing pantries, emergency grants, and screenings for benefits like SNAP and Medicaid. The goal is to address students' needs comprehensively and remove barriers to accessing these services. Philip discussed the diverse challenges faced by students at a large state institution like Rutgers. Despite the availability of dorms and meal plans, students still struggle with daily living expenses. Rutgers is building a Basic Needs Center that includes a food pantry, clothing pantry, and various support services, emphasizing the importance of partnerships with community organizations.

Importance Of Partnerships & Policy

Both Amanda and Philip underscored the importance of partnerships with community organizations and the critical need for policy changes at federal and state levels to better support students. These partnerships enhance the resources available to students and ensure that they receive comprehensive support. Amanda shared that Piedmont collaborates with local organizations to provide hygiene items, emergency grants, and other support services. They also have community tables on campus, where different community resources are available for students to access. Philip emphasized the significance of partnerships with food banks, shelters, and other community resources. He noted that these relationships are crucial for addressing the wide range of needs that students face.

Regarding policy, Amanda highlighted the importance of expanding SNAP benefits to cover hygiene items and re-evaluating the work requirements for college students. She pointed out that many students struggle to meet these requirements while balancing their academic responsibilities. Philip recommended increasing federal grants like the Pell Grant to account for the rising costs of higher education. He also emphasized the need for increased funding from both federal and state governments to support basic needs programs.

Looking To The Future

Philip expressed concerns about the sustainability of current funding levels for basic needs programs. He also highlighted the increasing cost of living and housing, which continue to be significant challenges for students. Amanda noted that the demand for mental health resources is likely to continue growing. She emphasized the importance of continuing to build partnerships and expanding support services to meet the evolving needs of students.


Addressing basic needs insecurity is essential for ensuring that all students can succeed in higher education. By building comprehensive support systems, leveraging community partnerships, and advocating for policy changes, institutions can make a significant impact on their students' lives. We are grateful to Amanda Key and Dr. Philip Smith for sharing their insights and expertise with us.

You can listen to the podcast episode "Friday 5 Live! Beyond The Books: Navigating Basic Needs Insecurity In Higher Education" here for a more in-depth discussion.


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For 20 years, Innovative Educators has assisted college leaders to build foundations of success for their students. Institutions have seen student engagement and retention increase significantly as a result of utilizing Go2Orientation, OnlineLingo and StudentLingo to onboard new students. Grounded in best practices for online learning, Innovative Educators student support tools are engaging, interactive, and community-building. Go2Orientation, OnlineLingo and StudentLingo together create a powerful online resource center providing comprehensive support to students throughout their academic journey. You can trust in the effectiveness of our resources to support your students' success.

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By Meg Foster, Online Learning & Design Specialist - Consultant & Wendy Archer,  Web Content Coordinator 
June 4, 2024



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