Giving Compass' Take:

• Here are four ways that higher education institutions can maintain COVID-19 aid and funding given to college students in need. 

• How can donors help fund higher education support services during this time? 

• Learn about the inequalities of the college financial aid system during COVID-19

To get students through this tough time, the federal government is providing some help. The CARES Act will provide colleges with nearly $14 billion in funding (PDF), and more than half of this is set aside for students to help with food, housing, and other basic needs. These dedicated funds will reach college students who may be ineligible for other forms of relief. College students may still be dependents and therefore ineligible for the $1,200 Economic Impact Payments, or they may not have enough recent work history to qualify for unemployment benefits.

Many colleges across the country have recognized the importance of helping their students to meet basic needs and are experimenting with different approaches. For example, there was an eight-fold increase in the number of colleges offering on-campus food pantries between 2012 and 2018 (PDF). Another common approach is emergency aid that provides students with quick access to grants of up to $1,500 to address unexpected financial issues. A federally-funded study across 11 colleges is examining these programs' effectiveness. Our own work shows that colleges that screen students for public benefit programs and employ case workers to connect them to resources are more likely to see their students graduate at higher rates.

COVID-19 could draw attention to food and housing insecurity among college students, and give college leaders a chance to consider how to address these needs more systematically over the long-term. There are likely a number of effective solutions that go beyond a one-time funding infusion or a limited set of experimental programs.

Here are four things we think that colleges might do to help make progress:

  1. Assess and Understand the Needs of Students
  2. Scale Evidence-Based Approaches as Research Emerges
  3. Ensure Easy Access to Resources
  4. Work with State and Federal Policymakers to Improve Basic Needs Support Among College Students

Read the full article about how colleges can support students by Lindsay Daugherty at RAND.