The University of California’s Next Phase of Improving Student Basic Needs Regents of the University of California Special Committee on Basic Needs (November 2020)

The University of California’s definition of basic needs includes a list of comprehensive needs representing the minimum resources necessary to holistically support all students in their daily lives. Basic needs insecurity (the lack of the minimum necessary supports for well-being) has pervaded universities nationwide for decades, and the University of California is no exception. Over the last 18 years, the total cost of attendance for the University has more than doubled ($35,429 for in-state students living on campus in 2018–19), making it more difficult for the University’s most historically underserved students to thrive in college.

Financial struggles during post-secondary education have been globally accepted as a rite of passage that most students undergo as a part of the college experience. In the past six years, rapidly increasing housing costs coupled with stakeholder advocacy and a growing body of research have accelerated the urgency and visibility of this issue with University leaders and policymakers.1 Today, UC’s basic needs efforts are viewed as a national model for improving basic needs in higher education. UC’s expanding efforts have been instrumental to supporting an estimated minimum of 40,000 students in need during the 2019–20 academic year, based on campus estimates as of July 2020. Yet the University is only beginning to fully understand the complex and intersecting factors that allow basic needs insecurity to continue and to assess its impact on students’ well-being and academic performance. The Regents formed a Special Committee on Basic Needs to further the discussion on basic needs, identify the root causes of basic needs insecurity, and develop a long-term strategy to eliminate basic needs insecurity at the University. The charter of the Special Committee included the issuance of this report, which has two aims: 1) to explain the daily struggles faced by students experiencing basic needs insecurity; and 2) to provide recommendations that address the root causes of basic needs insecurity systemwide. By outlining the underlying policy mechanisms that contribute to basic needs insecurity, this collection of findings and recommendations serves to help stakeholders understand their role in effectively addressing basic needs insecurity.

Next Phase of Improving Student Basic Needs

Redefining Student Basic Needs for Higher Education A Study to Understand and Map University of California Student Basic Needs (July 2020)

Meeting the basic needs of food and housing security is a multidimensional challenge for communities across the country, including those in higher education. Today, expenses other than tuition can account for more than 60 percent of the total cost of attending a college or university. Over the past four decades, the cost of living for college students has increased by over 80 percent.

The University of California (UC) is dedicated to ensuring the success of its more than 260,000 students and as such, has embarked on a comprehensive effort on how to identify, assess and help solve the housing and food security challenges students experience. UC has been focused on food security since the inception of the UC Global Food Initiative in 2014 and has been instrumental in shaping the state and national conversation around students’ basic needs challenges. One of the fundamental issues related to the question of housing security is the existence of a recognized or validated set of questions that national, state and scholarly researchers agree upon as an accurate survey instrument.

In 2018, as part of a GFI funded project, a housing insecurity study was commissioned, “Defining Student Basic Needs in Higher Education: An Exploratory Study on Housing and Food Insecurity Among University of California Students.” The purpose of the proposed study outlined in the following pages is twofold: 1) to explore the issue of student housing insecurity across our UC campus communities, and 2) to develop, vet and validate housing-related questions to accurately measure housing security.

Redefining Student Basic Needs

Santa Barbara Food Action Plan

The goal of the Santa Barbara County Food Action Plan is to ‘future proof’ how food travels from farm to table. Future proofing is the process of insulating ourselves, as much as possible, from the vagaries of an uncertain future—in essence, to be more resilient. In the food and farming sector, these uncertainties are huge.

In creating this action plan, we believe we can increase prosperity and health across the community and insulate ourselves from future uncertainties by making strategic investments in the food system. 

This would have a positive, cyclical effect that looks something like this:

  • Providing more access to good food and better information creates healthier people who make positive choices for themselves and their families.
  • This in turn creates well-nourished workers who are better able to support a vibrant food system, bringing more resources to the community.
  • And this in turn allows people to become better stewards of the natural resources that support our health.

To read the complete action plan, click the SBC Food Action Plan.

UCSB Campus Sustainability Plan

In 2005, Chancellor Henry Yang charged the Campus Planning Committee (CPC) to develop a comprehensive campus sustainability plan. The CPC appointed a sub-committee, chaired by the Associate Vice Chancellor of Administrative Services, and the campus had more than 80 participants attend the initial workshop. Teams were formed after the workshop, and they helped craft the first plan. In 2013, the Campus Sustainability Plan was updated and approved by campus. The 2015/2016 update includes new timelines, that align with the new presidential initiatives and integrates the three pillars of sustainability: social justice, economics, and the environment.

Sustainability Plan