Emergency Aid During the Pandemic: Improving Equitable Practice and Documenting Impact

Want more info about the project? Watch the video from the info session.

Introduction to the #RealCollege survey

Over the past five years, the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice has documented that at least one-third of undergraduates experience some form of food or housing insecurity, and at least one in ten experience homelessness. Our latest study shows that these issues are even more prevalent during the pandemic. Without action, the pandemic and its economic effects will only make basic needs insecurity worse, pushing millions of today’s students to the ragged margins of educational opportunity.

Emergency aid is a responsive and flexible tool being implemented at institutions of higher education throughout the nation.  This spring, for the first time, Congress invested more than $6B in emergency aid via the Cares Act. Experience in the field offers insight on how to design and deploy emergency aid programs, including streamlining application processes, delivery to students, and setting clear and equitable decision criteria.  But more evidence is needed to build knowledge about how institutions are deploying their emergency aid programs – and the results they are getting for students.

That is why the Hope Center is embarking on a new project to advance understanding and evidence for effective and equitable distribution of emergency aid. This project, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will engage at least 100 colleges and universities, assisting them in codifying processes so they can more equitably, and more efficiently administer emergency aid and ensure student success.

All institutions participating in the project will receive a detailed look at their students’ experiences with basic needs insecurity and emergency aid, and learn from how institutions around the country do this important work. Critically, we will examine which practices are most closely associated with higher rates of utilization of emergency aid and signs of academic success.

Find out more about the #RealCollege Survey,
a key part of this project

Enrollment information

This national effort is led by Drs. Sara Goldrick-Rab and Derek Price of The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice and DVP-Praxis.


  • Participation is free. Standard Hope Center costs of about $5,000 per institution are waived.
  • The time commitment is minimal. The typical institution will devote no more than two staff hours during Fall 2020 to participation. A small number of institutions will be asked to devote one additional hour.


  1. Learn from a written summary and webinar about how institutions around the country are delivering emergency aid programs (December 2020).
  2. Receive a confidential institution-specific report summarizing your students’ needs for food, housing, transportation, childcare, and mental health supports and their access to and experiences of using emergency aid  (March 2021).
  3. Examine recommendations for improving the delivery of emergency aid, based on data collected from you and your peers (September 2021), and a corresponding practice guide (Nov. 2021).

How to Participate:

Thank you for your interest. Enrollment for the Emergency Aid project is now closed. Colleges that applied will be notified if they were selected for the project by August 1.
If you have questions after reading the materials on this site, please email The Hope Center research team at hopesrvy@temple.edu. We look forward to working with you!

We are grateful to funding from Achieving the Dream, Complete College America, and University Innovation Alliance for making this work possible