#RealCollege students are the new majority – they come from economically challenged working and middle-class families, face substantial living expenses, and confront a difficult low-wage labor market. Yet their experiences and their voices remain under-represented in higher education research and policy.
No government survey currently assesses students’ basic needs; at present, the Hope Center’s extensive repository of survey data on student basic needs including 497 institutions totaling 322,966 responses is the primary source of data on these issues. The #RealCollege survey shows that nearly half of all college students experience food insecurity and almost one-fifth experience homelessness. But more research is needed to evaluate how to best support #RealCollege students on both an institutional and public policy level. This requires sophisticated research methodology and the creation of partnerships among stakeholders to ensure these policies are rigorously evaluated. Moreover, the pool of researchers working on these issues must be more diverse in terms of life experience if research questions are to remain relevant.
The #RealCollege Research Collaborative takes seriously the importance of research/practice partnerships while supporting researchers with lived #RealCollege experiences. This new collaborative is hosting a conference in conjunction with the renown #RealCollege conference to engage a new generation of researchers from open and broad access institutions, the places where most #RealCollege students attend. Researchers are receiving methodological guidance from the Hope Center and access to exclusive #RealCollege survey data; they are using the data to expand our understanding of basic needs insecurity among college students and the programs that support them.