A national effort to tackle food and housing insecurity among college students has selected Grand Rapids Community College as one of its first partners.
GRCC is one of 27 colleges picked after an intense competition for the inaugural cohort of Hope4College, an initiative by the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice.
The effort is funded, in part, by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the ECMC Foundation. The member schools will work individually and together to build and strengthen support systems that meet students’ basic needs.
Nearly three in five students experience housing or food insecurity — and the problem is more common among those attending two-year colleges, according to the center.
“Without these basic needs met, students struggle to learn, achieve and graduate,” Sara Goldrick-Rab, the center’s founder and CEO, told a U.S. House of Representatives committee on Sept. 8. “They fall deeply into debt, often leaving college without degrees needed to repay it.”
Addressing students’ basic needs is part of GRCC’s strategic plan, and the school already has many measures in place, including a student food pantry, a Student Emergency Assistance Fund and a “Get Help” webpage that connects students with campus and community resources.
The pantry, run by the Student Life and Conduct office, saw 186 visits from fall 2018 to summer 2019. Lina Blair, director of Student Life, saw an immediate increase in requests for help when the pandemic hit.
“Many college students were struggling prior to the coronavirus crisis, especially those balancing school with work and families,” Blair said. “We care deeply about our students and wanted to make sure we could help.”