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Nearly three in five college students experienced basic needs insecurity entering fall 2020. In response to this and the needs of community college partner schools, TimelyMD is introducing a new service (available this fall) to connect students with free or reduced-cost programs that provide support for services. It was created to empower college students to overcome barriers they face in school and life by connecting them with programs that provide healthcare, food and housing assistance, transit support, childcare, legal services, assistance for bills, and more. Why is basic needs support important and how does it work?
An unmet need in higher education
Only four in 10 college students graduate from a four-year college. And while there’s no shortage of reasons for that fact, most are rooted in financial difficulties. Nearly 80% of students delay graduation due to lack of financial resources — and over 50% of students drop out due to lack of money. This makes sense when you consider that 60% of students don’t get any financial help from their parents. As enrollment continues to decline in higher education, and given that 98,924 fewer high school seniors completed FAFSAs in 2020 compared to the previous year, the problem is certain to worsen, and its impact is far-reaching.
The reality is that college dropouts are twice as likely to live in poverty compared to those who complete college. And when you consider that higher education loses $3.8 billion each year as a result of college dropouts, it becomes clear that something must be done to help students achieve their educational goals — for the benefit of the students, their families, and society at large.
Additionally, a 2019 Association of American Colleges & Universities (AACU) survey found that more than 60% of students had experienced food insecurity within the past thirty days or housing insecurity/homelessness within the past year. The AACU noted that certain student populations and demographics faced a higher risk of basic needs insecurity, including students at two-year institutions, African Americans, LGBTQ students, students with prior military service, former foster youth, students with prior criminal convictions, and students who are independent of their parents or guardians for financial aid purposes. Unfortunately, when students are food insecure, it takes a toll not only on academic success but also on the physical and mental health of students.
How insecure students were impacted by the pandemic
It’s impossible to ignore the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In The Hope Center’s report entering fall 2020, it found that among 200,000 college students surveyed:
- 41% had a close friend or family member who contracted COVID-19
- 7% became sick with COVID-19
- 39% at two-year institutions and 29% at four-year institutions were affected by food insecurity
- 48% were affected by housing security issues
- 14% were affected by homelessness
Financial resources are critical to students who face basic needs security. Of these students, 32% of the students surveyed received emergency aid, and 18% received SNAP. Perhaps the most shocking stat from this report is that 52% of students did not apply for support services due to a lack of knowledge on how to do so.
This is where basic needs support comes in to impact student health and wellness. This new support service was created to address the barriers caused by financial difficulties by connecting students with free or reduced-cost programs based on need and location.
Discover how telehealth supports student basic needs
Questions about basic needs support at colleges and universities
To learn how basic needs support works for colleges and universities, Laura Kennemer, our patient care advisor, shares more information about the service and the impact already made with this type of support.
What is basic needs support and why start it?
Basic needs support is TimelyMD’s response to a need we see with the college students at partner institutions. There was a trend that community college students were being referred to patient care advisors because they had problems getting their basic needs met, such as food and/or housing. TimelyMD acknowledges that social determinants of health are conditions in these students’ communities that affect their ability to be healthy and successful in school. We want to improve student access to:
- Health care and mental health care
- Career placement and employment
- Healthy foods
- Stable housing options
The National Center for Education Statistics reports that “low-income students are less likely to complete their study programs than other students. In 2015, the center reported that just about 16% of the poorest students were able to graduate college. By comparison, about 60% of the wealthiest students graduated.”
We want to support community college students by helping them get their needs met so they can then be successful students and achieve academic success. By connecting students with community and campus resources, it’s a win for the students and their colleges.
How does basic needs support work?
Students will be able to access services under the guidance of a social worker or our staff the same way they can access a physician or counselor. The students would refer themselves to basic needs support or be referred by a medical or mental health provider. The social worker will look for resources in the students’ communities to refer them to that organization.
What is your role in students’ basic needs support?
I am a social worker and will work with my team to help these students find resources in their community that will help them with the “in-the-moment” need. The role of our team is to be a friendly, supportive voice that listens, understands, then works to help the student.
How does basic needs support benefit students?
Basic needs support helps students get their basic needs met so they can be successful in the classroom and reach their educational goals.
What are some examples of how you engage students?
I recently spoke with a community college student that lives in California. She is studying accounting and recently began a job in an accounting position. She had been living with a family member, but they got into a fight and she moved out. She is now living in a hotel that costs $1,000 a week. She used the TimelyCare TalkNow service and the provider she spoke with referred her to me. I called her and listened to what is going on in her life and then worked to provide her with housing options in her community, like a housing access center in her town that is managed by the county, housing resources on her college’s website, and a property management company in her community that has affordable housing options.
In May, I spoke with a community college student that lives in Texas, who needed counseling services for her young daughter. I found several counseling centers in her community that provide pediatric counseling and referred her to them.
We use a program for text message outreach to all students who use the TimelyCare telehealth services. A community college student in California (who had used the TalkNow, on-demand mental health service) sent this text message (see image).
I called her and we talked for a long time. I encouraged her to connect with the Women’s Safe Shelter in her community so they could support her as she made decisions about her safety, housing, and restraining orders.
What are the organizations with which you connect students?
I connect students with government/county agencies, non-profit organizations, and campus resources that will help them get what they need. Examples include food pantries on or near their campuses, county housing assistance programs, and mental health providers in their neighborhoods that use sliding-fee scale payment methods.
Why would a college want basic needs support for college students?
Colleges will benefit by having basic needs support because it will be a powerful resource that their students can access. It will help them meet their basic needs for housing, food, employment, transportation, and safety. Once the student has basic needs security, they are far more likely to see improved academic performance.
What are the long-term benefits of basic needs support for students and schools?
I believe the long-term benefits will be healthier communities and economies. Those who are gainfully employed in careers they find rewarding will be engaged members of our society and better able to connect with others in meaningful, healthy, and productive ways.
The health of your college campus has a direct impact on student success. When college students’ basic needs are met, they are empowered to take control of their education and academic success. To learn more about how to support students, customize a health and well-being solution for your students, and integrate it with your campus healthcare resources, contact TimelyMD.
Let's Eliminate Barriers to Student Success
Our experts are ready to learn more about your school and share how basic needs support can be a key part of a telehealth program that helps students thrive.