All Students Deserve Basic Needs Security
November 16, 2023
Dear ECMC Foundation Community,
On behalf of the ECMC Foundation family, I wish you a happy and healthy Thanksgiving holiday. We are grateful to be working alongside our grantee and investee partners in the field. I know that many of us associate this season with an abundance of food and gifts. However, this is also a time that lays bare the harsh realities so many individuals and families face. Nearly 38 million people live in poverty, both children and adults, and their most basic needs will tragically continue to go unmet well beyond the holidays. At ECMC Foundation, freedom from financial insecurity is our wish for the millions of learners we aim to serve through our grants and investments, as well as for their families and communities. Imagine the transformation that could take place in our society if we unleash every student’s untapped potential.
Hard work lies ahead. We present too many people across our nation with a catch-22. A college credential does indeed offer a critical pathway to socioeconomic mobility. But unfortunately, that pathway is impassable for a significant proportion of learners. We tell students to stay the course through graduation, while knowing for more than 40 million individuals across the nation who have some college but no degree, postsecondary education presented a formidable challenge. Many students lack the basic resources they need to function—most commonly including but not limited to food, housing, childcare, transportation, technology and physical and mental health services. I cannot think of a better time to renew our commitment to sustainable, holistic approaches that center students, both in and beyond the classroom.
Data from the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS) shows that, across the nation, more than 4 million students are facing food insecurity and more than 1.5 million are facing housing insecurity. This week, we are announcing the Foundation’s new Basic Needs Initiative strategy with a bold goal of reducing postsecondary students’ basic needs insecurity by 10% by 2033.
The initiative originally launched in 2019 as a unique grantmaking effort to undergird a postsecondary education system where every student has enough resources to persist in and complete their academic journeys. When any student faces basic needs insecurities, regardless of background, they’re at a higher risk of dropping out and facing additional obstacles that often extend to their families and broader communities.
Simply put, basic needs insecurity can disrupt learning, persistence and completion across postsecondary education. And we must work together to change that outcome for hundreds of thousands of students nationwide.
ECMC Foundation believes every postsecondary student deserves to be basic needs secure throughout their academic journey, and the postsecondary ecosystem must play an active role in realizing that vision. The onus cannot be only on individual institutions—especially not individual administrators, faculty and staff, and most of all, students—to undo these deeply entrenched national trends. Funders, researchers, administrators, students and many more stakeholders must come together across sectors and geographies to realize systemic solutions to a systemic problem. This initiative will fund multiple strategies to streamline systems and meet the unique needs of underserved populations.
Ultimately, we envision a postsecondary ecosystem where every student has the resources they need outside the classroom to be able to succeed inside the classroom. Basic needs security is a critical part of a holistic approach to ensuring all students can succeed in their academic journey. We invite others in the field to partner with us to realize a day when all students are basic needs secure.
President, ECMC Foundation