#RealCollege Survey

Sign-up for the 2020 #RealCollege Survey is closed. For information about the 2021 survey, check back in March 2021 or subscribe to our newsletter.

#RealCollege Logo

#RealCollege Survey Introduction

Thank you for your interest in the Hope Center’s #RealCollege Survey. Enrollment for the 2020 #RealCollege Survey is closed. Enrollment for the 2021 survey will begin in March 2021. You may review information on the 2020 survey instrument, implementation steps, and sign-up process below. Subscribe to our newsletter for updates about the 2021 survey.

Survey cost is based on your institution’s type and projected fall total student enrollment (headcount). For more information on 2020 survey pricing, please see the Pricing section. Note that rates are subject to change in 2021.

Why field the #RealCollege Survey at your institution?

Simply put, this survey reveals the lived experiences of today’s students outside of classroom instruction.


"Have to shout out @hope4college- they were great to work with on our NJ survey! I can’t imagine the amount of work that went into a high-quality, quick turnaround survey/report during the pandemic but this info is vital for students and next steps.” - Stefani Thachik, New Jersey Office of the Secretary of Higher Education


Introduction to the #RealCollege survey

Established in 2015 to examine issues that higher education was not yet considering, the #RealCollege Survey is now the nation’s largest most well established annual assessment of students’ basic needs. More than 400 colleges and universities and more than 330,000 students have completed the instrument.

The survey consists of questions on the following topics: employment, finances, food insecurity, housing insecurity, homelessness, childcare affordability, utilization of public benefits, utilization of campus programs, and demographics that allow for subgroup analyses. The fall 2020 survey will also include a special section on COVID response. The survey can be downloaded here.

Every participating institution (and system) receives their own report of the results in Spring 2021 and has the option to engage the Hope Center in distributing the findings (example of institution report).

Want to find out more about the survey's value and impact?
Read the Introduction to the #RealCollege Survey

How do colleges and universities use the #RealCollege Survey?


"The findings of this year's #RealCollege Survey reaffirm the need for us as leaders and teammates in higher education to be hyper-focused on supporting our students, now more than ever.” - Dr. Lisa Skari, President of Mt. Hood Community College


“The #RealCollege reports on food insecurity is one reason KU Student Affairs #OneDayOneKU fund is for Jayhawk Support Fund. The need is real. Help us help students!” – Jane Tuttle Associate Vice Provost, The University of Kansas


Experienced leaders consistently report that the #RealCollege Survey helps them with many critical activities, including:

  • Fundraising for student supports, such as emergency aid and food pantries
  • Community engagement with local businesses, human services agencies, and other non-government organizations
  • Advocacy with state and federal policymakers
  • Focusing their leadership teams, staff, and faculty on key drivers of degree completion



Institutional participation in #RealCollege surveys has also inspired philanthropy and policymakers to step up and contribute to addressing students’ basic needs.

“Don’t scroll past these statistics without reading them. This is important. This is #RealCollege, and exactly why we launched our Basic Needs Initiative at ECMC Foundation.” - Peter J. Taylor, President of ECMC Foundation


“#RealCollege found that 39% were food insecure in the last 30 days, 46% were housing insecure and 17% were homeless in the last year. No one should have to learn under these circumstances.” – Randi Weingarten, Head of AFT

To whom does the resulting data belong? Is our report made public?

The Hope Center aggregates data from students across institutions and creates a national report. Names of institutions are published in the back of the report, but institution-specific results are not reported.

Institutional reports are provided directly to the college or university contact. The Hope Center’s policy is that only the institution may release the results; the Hope Center will not.

When and how is the survey fielded?

Food and housing insecure students drop out early each term, and so in order to give your institution a full picture of need, we field the survey starting in the first month of the fall term.

We provide an electronic link to the survey and all accompanying invitation text, and your institution distributes it.

What about survey fatigue? Isn’t this a bad time to do yet another survey?

Yes, students are tired of surveys. But they make it quite clear that they are not tired of the #RealCollege Survey. In fact we receive unsolicited feedback that they appreciate being asked questions that matter, and are glad to receive this survey. We’ve fielded the survey at 400+ colleges and none have ever expressed regret. The data are actionable and used by student leaders as well as administrators to improve supports and create healthier campuses.

What does institutional participation require?

To participate in the Fall 2020 survey, please take the following steps:

  1. Confirm with institutional leadership that your college or university wants to participate. Typically you need the permission of a provost, dean, or chief officer of student affairs, enrollment management, or institutional research. For support reaching out to institutional leadership, please email hopesrvy@temple.edu.

  2. Identify a staff point person to receive communication about the survey from the Hope Center. This person should be a senior-level administrator, such as a provost, vice president, or dean.

  3. Confirm that your institution’s IRB will rely on the Temple University IRB determination. The Hope Center will provide the determination letter and more information if needed.

  4. Prepare to begin survey recruitment by sending the first email to all enrolled students during the first month of the fall 2020 term. The Hope Center provides the email text with a survey link.

  5. Pay the Hope Center for survey services by October 15, 2020. We are unable to offer the survey for free to all as philanthropic support has ended. However, our fees are minimal and scholarships are available.

What does the survey cost?

Survey cost is based on your institution’s type and projected fall total student enrollment (headcount). For more information on 2020 survey pricing, please see the Pricing section. Note that rates are subject to change in 2021. 

Can my college or university system or consortium participate?

Yes. Please contact us directly for information and to participate.

How and when can we sign up?

Sign-up for the 2020 survey has closed. For information about the 2021 survey, check back in March 2021 or subscribe to our newsletter.


Beginning with its inception in 2015, the #RealCollege survey benefitted from philanthropic support that enabled us to offer it free of charge to most participating institutions. While that support expired with the 2019 wave, we continue to make the survey as affordable as possible. Our one-of-a-kind validated survey instrument equips your institution with the quality data you need to better understand your students’ basic needs, target institutional investments, and fuel fundraising and advocacy. Every year, colleges and universities report that the #RealCollege survey is instrumental in their efforts to garner new philanthropic and state support. Pending federal legislation could also require institutions to collect #RealCollege data in order to receive new funds for students’ basic needs.

Our pricing reflects our values of efficacy, equity, and inclusiveness. All participating institutions receive a report summarizing findings from their entire student body. If you participate, the Hope Center will deliver the report solely to your institution (it will not be published publicly) by March 2021 following the survey. The Hope Center team supports institutions with all aspects of survey administration, including guidance on how to recruit participants and increase response rates.

Please also note that full funding will be provided for institutions selected to participate in the Hope Center's Emergency Aid During the Pandemic: Improving Equitable Practice and Documenting Impact project.  

Participating institutions may also opt for additional supports for a fee, including:

  • Graphical representations of the #RealCollege data – The Hope Center’s communications team can prepare visuals to incorporate into your own publications and presentations.
  • Communications/media strategy – The Hope Center is well-known for our effective media engagement and we can advise you on how to effectively message your institution’s #RealCollege results to your community and state to optimize fundraising and related supports.
  • On-campus presentation of survey findings – Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab and other Hope Center directors frequently travel to institutions to present system and/or institution reports to interested administrators, staff, faculty, and students.
  • Customized workshops or other on-campus technical assistance – Hope Center team members can tailor and facilitate workshops to help college leaders use #RealCollege survey data and drive support for students’ basic needs.
  • Additional detailed analyses – Found a topic you wish to explore further in your institution’s results? The Hope Center would be happy to assist.
  • Faculty and staff survey – Interested in fielding a basic needs survey to faculty and staff? Contact the Hope Center and we can discuss.



#RealCollege survey rates are based on fall 2020 projected total headcount enrollment and institution type. Institutions may elect to survey undergraduates only or we can include graduate and professional students (recommended).

Please note that fall 2021 pricing may be different from fall 2020. If your college or university is considering fall 2021 participation, please contact us at hopesrvy@temple.edu before preparing a budget based on the below information.

The survey costs include student incentives. This is a critical, equity-promoting activity and is non-negotiable. The incentives will be paid in $100 increments and the number of incentives provided to students correspond to headcount. The Hope Center will distribute the incentives.

College and university systems may also participate in the survey and receive a system-level report for an additional fee that is published on our website. Please contact the Hope Center at hopesrvy@temple.edu for information on system pricing and reporting.

Headcount Administration Cost Incentives Paid
Directly to Students
Total Cost
  Community and Technical Colleges All other institutions   Community and Technical Colleges All other institutions
<1,500 $2,000 $3,500 $500 $2,500 $4,000
1,500-3,999 $3,500 $5,000 $1,000 $4,500 $6,000
4000-7,999 $5,000 $6,500 $2,000 $7,000 $8,500
8,000-14,999 $7,000 $8,500 $2,500 $9,500 $11,000
15,000-21,999 $9,000 $10,500 $3,000 $12,000 $13,500
22,000+ $10,500 $12,000 $4,000 $14,500 $16,000

If your institution registers for the survey but is unable to field, you will not be billed. If the survey response rate is below 5%, the Hope Center can work with your institution to field the survey again the next year at a discounted rate.


A limited number of partial and full scholarships are available to support the participation of institutions facing financial challenges. Information about scholarships for the fall 2021 survey will be available in March 2021.

Recent Reports

The Hope Center's recently published #RealCollege Survey reports are below. For all reports, see our Research Page.

5 years after it began, the #RealCollege survey has now reached more than 330,000 students at more than 400 colleges
This report describes the results of the #RealCollege survey administered in the fall of 2019 at 28 out of the
This report describes the results of the #RealCollege survey administered in the fall of 2018and 2019 at 28 of the
Graduation cap with feather and cow skull design
This report describes the results of the #RealCollege survey administered in the fall of 2019 at seven tribal colleges and

Participation Timeline

April – July 2020: Enrollment

Institutions submit the sign-up form on the #RealCollege Survey sign up page.

July 22, 2020: Enrollment Deadline

Final deadline for institutions to sign up.

August 1, 2020: Hope Center Notifies Scholarship Recipients

Institutions that applied for a scholarship when signing up for the #RealCollege Survey will receive scholarship decisions by this date.

September 1 – October 30, 2020: Survey Open

Institutions send the #RealCollege Survey to students using email text provided by the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice at Temple University (Hope Center). The first email must be sent to all enrolled students during the first four weeks of the fall term. The three follow-up emails must be sent once per week for three subsequent weeks.

October 15, 2020: Payment Due to Hope Center

Hope Center receives payment for survey from institutions. If your institution registers for the survey but is unable to field, you will not be billed.

October 30, 2020: Survey Closes

The Hope Center closes the #RealCollege Survey.

November 1 – December 31, 2020: Incentive Distribution

The Hope Center randomly generates incentive recipients from each institution and sends incentives to students.

November 2020 – April 2021: Survey Analysis

The Hope Center cleans and analyzes survey data.

January – March 2021: National Report Release

The national #RealCollege Survey report presents survey results across all participating institutions.

March 2021: Institutions Receive Reports

The Hope Center shares institution-specific reports directly with participating institutions.

Sign Up

Thank you for your interest. Enrollment for the 2020 #RealCollege Survey is closed. For information about the 2021 survey, check back in March 2021 or subscribe to our newsletter.
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!