Giving Compass' Take:

• In this story from EdSurge, author Sydney Johnson discusses the importance of addressing basic needs for college students to enable their academic success.

• Some argue that colleges are not social service organizations and are only responsible for the academic success of their students. Others argue that, because academic success is tied to a student's basic needs, colleges have a vested interest in their students' lives outside of school. Could nonprofit sector collaboration with colleges represent a middle ground between these arguments?

• To learn about an argument against free community college in California, click here.

Improving students success won’t hinge on shiny new gadgets or high-tech early alert systems based on AI or big data. Increasingly, colleges are deciding to focus on addressing the root causes that can lead students to struggle in the first place.

At a [recent panel], Sara Goldrick-Rab, professor of higher education Policy at Temple University, started the conversation by providing some context and statistics from the Wisconsin HOPE Lab, which she founded. A 2017 study from the lab found that nearly two thirds of community college students are food insecure. About half of community college students are housing insecure and about 14 percent are homeless.

But not everyone in higher ed buys these numbers, she said. “There are still some who doubt.” One challenge is there’s no federal data to back up these trends. “We need national representative data, and we don’t have it.”

One college that has started to survey its students on these issues is Amarillo College, in Texas. The school worked with Goldrick-Rab and the HOPE Lab to poll its students to ask what they needed to be successful. The top 10 reasons students said they had trouble in the classroom had little to do with academics. Instead, students listed issues around finding housing, transportation, utilities, childcare and legal services.

Amarillo College opened a legal aid clinic, a childcare center, a counseling center and an Advocacy and Resource Center, a hub for the school’s food pantry where students can also get connected to social services provided by local nonprofits ... Since implementing the new services, the three-year graduation rate ... has increased from 13 percent to 22 percent. Cara Crowley, vice president of strategic initiatives at Amarillo, told EdSurge the school has earned $16 for every $1 it invests in these programs as a result.

Read the full article about college student success by Sydney Johnson at EdSurge