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More than half of University of Hawaiʻi students surveyed last year experienced some type of basic needs insecurity, according to a recent study. Basic needs include, but are not limited to, food and housing, clothing, childcare, mental health, financial resources and transportation. In 2020, the University of Hawaiʻi Basic Needs Committee partnered with the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice to conduct a comprehensive basic needs assessment of the UH student body, and provided technical assistance in developing a Basic Needs Master Plan for the university.

39% of UH students surveyed experienced food insecurity last year.

Among the results of the survey:

  • 58% experienced at least one form of basic needs insecurity
  • 39% experienced food insecurity in the prior 30 days
  • 44% experienced housing insecurity in the previous year
  • 14% experienced homelessness in the previous year

“Having two out of five students experience hunger during 2020, is extremely concerning,” said UH President David Lassner. “Besides the obvious physical impacts, student hunger can affect mental health, academic performance and graduation rates. We are grateful to the UH Basic Student Needs Committee and its members, who are already working hard to help address this issue. While we are fortunate to have one-time federal COVID-19 relief funds available on each of our ten campuses to assist students in need, it is clear that we need more sustainable strategies to help our students thrive as they learn moving forward.”

Meeting students’ needs

Mikyla Hiilani Thomas working with vegetables

In March 2021, the committee launched the Student Basic Needs website, an online clearinghouse for both on-campus and city, state and federal basic needs resources. Students with a email can also log in to use this search engine for more information and basic needs resources.

To encourage access to basic needs support throughout the summer, UH Student Basic Needs Coordinator Rainbow Uliʻi has been hosting a series of webinars on basic needs security for UH students, faculty and staff. These webinars feature how to use the Student Basic Needs site and how to access basic needs support services year round. The next webinar is on Friday, July 16, 11–11:30 a.m. See this UH News story for more information.

Invitations to complete a questionnaire were sent by email to 48,133 students from the UH System and 1,016 students participated, for an estimated response rate of 2.1%. Despite the low response rate, these UH findings are consistent with prior national studies (PDF) of student basic needs insecurity conducted over the last five years.

The full report on the UH System (PDF) and reports for nine UH campuses are available on the UH Student Basic Needs website.

UH appreciates the support of many generous donors who have given in support of basic student needs over the years. If you are able to help, visit this UH Foundation page to donate to the campus or program of your choice.

—By Kelli Abe Trifonovitch

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