The Hope Center new survey, #REALCollege During the Pandemic, examined the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak and school closures on the security of students’ basic needs. Findings indicated that 11 percent of students at two-year institutions and almost 15 percent at four-year institutions were experiencing homelessness due to the pandemic.

The vast majority of homeless students were couch-surfing or staying in other temporary accommodations. On-campus students and off-campus students experienced similar rates of food insecurity (34% vs. 31%) and homelessness during the pandemic (17% vs. 15%). The report also found significant disparities in the pandemic’s impact on the security of college students’ basic needs, with the highest rates among Indigenous, Black, and Pacific Islander/Native Hawaiian students.

The new report findings included the following:
• Two in three students who were employed before the pandemic experienced job insecurity, with one-third losing a job due to the pandemic. Basic needs insecurity was higher among students who experienced job loss and/or cuts to pay or hours.
• Half of respondents exhibited at least moderate anxiety.
• Half of respondents at two-year colleges and 63% of respondents at four-year colleges said that they could not concentrate on schooling during the pandemic.
• Twenty-one percent of respondents dealing with basic needs insecurity applied for unemployment insurance, 15% applied for SNAP, and 15% applied for emergency aid. But many students did not apply for supports because they did not know they were eligible to do so.

The report evidence on financial hardships –including basic needs insecurity—adversely impacted the health and well-being of college students during the pandemic. The five policy recommendations included federal and state investment in student emergency aid and reduced administrative burdens with assessing federal emergency aid funding.

To access the #RealCollege During the Pandemic report, click here.

About the Author:

John Sciamanna is CWLA's Vice President of Public Policy.

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