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    Beyond Academics: A Holistic Approach to Addressing Student Insecurities


    College is often seen as a time of personal growth, academic development, and preparation for future success. However, many students face significant barriers to achieving their educational goals due to various insecurities. Ana, Upswing’s SMS virtual assistant, receives hundreds of messages from students every day asking for help with food, housing, technology, childcare, transportation, and much more. 

    These insecurities can have a negative impact on students’ well-being, academic performance, and overall college experience–leading them to fail courses or drop out. 

    In this blog post, we’ll show you messages from real students and explore how colleges can address these insecurities to ensure that all students have an equitable opportunity to succeed.

    Food Insecurity

    Food insecurity refers to the lack of reliable access to affordable, nutritious food. In a Spring 2023 text message campaign, Ana, asked our partner school’s students what resources they needed more information about. The options were food assistance, free health clinics, community resources, childcare assistance, or all of the above. Of the 1,230 students who responded to this campaign, 42.2% of students asked for food assistance. 

    SP23ComResourcesResponses 1 copy

    The stress of not knowing where your next meal will come from can hinder a student’s ability to focus on their studies. Colleges can take several steps to alleviate food insecurity:

    a. Establish Campus Food Pantries: Setting up food pantries on campus where students can access free or low-cost groceries can make a significant difference. These pantries can be stocked with non-perishable items, fresh produce, and hygiene products. Colleges that implement food pantries often fund them through community donations, donations from partner organizations, and even on-campus gardens. 

    b. Meal Swipe Programs: Implement meal swipe programs that allow students to donate unused meal plan swipes to their peers in need. This reduces food waste and helps those facing food insecurity.

    c. Meal Vouchers and Assistance Programs: Create meal voucher programs or financial assistance initiatives for students facing acute food insecurity. These programs can provide immediate relief during crises.

    Housing Insecurity

    Housing insecurity, including homelessness and unstable living situations, can be a significant barrier to academic success. According to a survey done by The Hope Center at Temple U, about half of survey respondents at two-year colleges and two in five at four-year colleges experienced housing insecurity. The most common challenges for respondents, across the college sector, were not being able to pay the full amount of their rent, mortgage, or utility bills.


    Colleges can address this issue in the following ways:

    a. Emergency Housing: Offer emergency housing options for students experiencing homelessness or sudden housing crises. These temporary accommodations can provide a safe place to stay while long-term solutions are sought.

    b. Affordable Housing Partnerships: Collaborate with local housing authorities and organizations to provide affordable housing options for students. Subsidized housing or housing scholarships can make a significant difference.

    c. Housing Support Services: Establish a housing support office on campus that helps students find affordable housing, navigate rental agreements, and access resources like rent assistance programs.

    Lack of Transportation

    Transportation challenges can hinder students’ ability to attend classes, access essential resources, and participate in extracurricular activities. According to Stateline, Only 57% of community college main campuses in the United States have transit stops within walking distance, defined as a quarter mile or less, and many rural campuses have no public transportation access at all.


    Colleges can address this by:

    a. Public Transportation Partnerships: Partner with local public transportation agencies to provide discounted or free transit passes to students. This makes commuting more affordable and accessible.

    b. Campus Shuttle Services: Operate on-campus shuttle services that connect students to key areas such as classes, housing, and grocery stores. This can be especially helpful for campuses with large footprints.

    c. Bike Sharing Programs: Promote sustainable transportation by offering bike-sharing programs on campus. This not only reduces transportation costs, but also contributes to a healthier lifestyle. Companies such as Lyft and Lime often offer single ride, day pass, and membership options.

    Lack of Child Care

    Balancing parenthood with higher education can be incredibly challenging. According to the Education Trust, A student-parent would need to work 52 hours per week, on average, to cover child care and tuition costs at a four-year public college or university in the U.S. Unfortunately for most student-parents, this just isn’t feasible. 

    Child care

    To support student-parents, colleges can offer:

    a. On-Campus Child Care Centers: Establish on-campus child care centers that provide affordable and convenient options for student-parents. These centers should offer flexible hours to accommodate class schedules.

    b. Child Care Subsidies: Provide financial assistance or subsidies to help student-parents cover the cost of off-campus child care services.

    c. Partner with Local Child Care Centers: Partner with local child care centers to offer discounts to student-parents to help lower the cost of child care. 

    d. Parenting Support Groups: Create parenting support groups or workshops to help student-parents connect with others facing similar challenges and receive guidance on parenting and time management.

    Lack of Access to Technology

    In today’s digital age, access to technology is crucial for academic success. A study done by Educause showed that while 99% of college students felt laptops were at least moderately important for academic success, 8% (potentially more than a million students) didn’t have access to one.

    Ana Technology

    To bridge the digital divide, colleges can provide:

    a. Laptop Loan Programs: Implement laptop loan programs that allow students to borrow laptops for the duration of their studies. These laptops should come with necessary software and support.

    b. Wi-Fi Accessibility: Ensure widespread Wi-Fi coverage on campus, including in common areas, libraries, and dorms. Additionally, provide guidance on affordable internet options available in the community.

    c. Technology Grants: Offer grants or financial assistance to students who need to purchase essential technology like laptops, tablets, or internet access.

    Addressing these student insecurities is essential for promoting equitable educational opportunities. By taking a comprehensive approach and implementing the strategies discussed above, colleges can create a more inclusive and supportive learning environment. When students are freed from the burdens of insecurity, they can focus on their education and work towards a brighter future. Investing in your students’ well-being ultimately promotes their academic success, increasing their likelihood of persisting through college to graduation.

    To hear more on this topic and how Upswing partner, Durham Technical Community College, provides holistic support to their students, check out our latest webinar titled “From Insecurity to Success.” 
    To learn how Ana can give you insight into your students’ evolving needs, contact us today.

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