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Supporting Student Basic Needs: Counties and Colleges Join Forces

Counties and colleges
About 50% of college students in California battle with food insecurity, but thanks to the newly passed Assembly Bill 1326, help might be on the way. (Photo: Timely Care)

In California, about 50% of college students struggle with food insecurity, but assistance may be on the way thanks to the recently passed Assembly Bill 1326.

Counties and colleges

About 50% of college students in California battle with food insecurity, but thanks to the newly passed Assembly Bill 1326, help might be on the way. (Photo: Uni Taster Days)

Counties and college campuses collaborate to support college students

By requesting that each county welfare department appoint at least one employee to act as a point of contact for public higher education campuses and to inform students of the programs and services the county offers, the bill ensures that counties and college campuses collaborate to support college students’ basic needs.

In an article from Record-Bee, Joaquin Arambula, a member of the California State Assembly, outlined the significance and motivation for the legislation by pointing out that many of our college and university students encounter difficulties while pursuing their academic degrees. He continued by saying that they must not allow housing shortages and food insecurity to obstruct their efforts to improve their lives and the lives of their families. In order to ensure that students are connected to the resources they are qualified for, he drafted AB 1326 to require that counties appoint liaisons as a vital link to the university. By doing this, we can make sure that these students’ paths to realizing their aspirations are less bumpy, which will be to everyone’s advantage.

Due to economic issues including tuition, housing costs, cost of living, and the slow rise of salaries, college students continue to have a strong need for additional support for their fundamental necessities. This makes the request difficult and multifaceted.

Some social safety net programs can also be made more difficult by outmoded federal regulations, such as the California Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (CalFresh Food)’s College Student Eligibility Rule. It would be simpler for counties and institutions to assist students if these onerous red tape restrictions were removed.

The only population that faces additional rigorous requirements above basic eligibility in order to get CalFresh Food benefits is college students, which frequently makes navigating their cases more difficult for both the county eligibility staff and the students themselves. The importance of this issue for the state and its 149 public colleges and universities is further demonstrated by a 2021 study conducted at the University of California, Davis that demonstrates CalFresh Food membership can reduce the harmful impacts of food poverty on college student GPAs.

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Promoting SNAP/CalFresh enrollment a top priority

Added in the article from Timely Care, for the sake of survival, students who work more than 15 hours per week or cut back on their course load are less likely to finish their degrees. Given that roughly half of all college students experience food insecurity, this is particularly concerning.

Given these advantages, county and state officials, as well as university administrations, should make promoting SNAP/CalFresh enrollment a top priority. The state, counties, colleges, and ultimately college students could all profit from the development of strong partnerships that AB 1326 hopes to foster. More basic food needs might be satisfied and local economies could be strengthened if more students received benefits.

Campus counseling works to unite county welfare offices and campus basic needs personnel through collaborative best practices by defining clear and reasonable standards in order to effectively serve college students in satisfying their basic requirements.

Some counties and institutions already have strong, productive relationships, which is advantageous for college applicants. Counties can develop a shared knowledge base and be better prepared to deal with caseload growth. The collaboration between Merced County and University of California Merced is a perfect example of a successful county and college partnership. To assist students who are applying for benefits, the county and college frequently communicate, share information, and exchange data.

The California Department of Social Services, in collaboration with the Center for Healthy Communities at Chico State, will host a webinar on Wednesday to share best practices in the implementation of AB 1326. At today’s webinar, which is likely to draw counties and campuses from all over the state, participants will hear about the ways that Riverside County, California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo, College of the Canyons, University of California Merced, and Sonoma State University collaborate to serve students all over the state.

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