#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 agency currently reports on the security of students’ basic needs; at present, the Hope Center’s extensive repository of survey data on student basic needs including more than 530 institutions and over 550,000 student 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 will engage a new generation of researchers from open and broad access institutions, the places where most #RealCollege™ students attend. Members of the Collaborative will receive methodological guidance from the Hope Center and access to exclusive #RealCollege™ survey data; they will use the data to expand our understanding of basic needs insecurity among college students and the programs that support them.