The Hope Center


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Young single mom studying for college exam
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What is #RealCollegePHL?

#RealCollegePHL brings together Philadelphia-area colleges, universities, community-based organizations, and policymakers, to better understand and address basic needs insecurity among college students. We envision a Philadelphia region where every student who wants to pursue education beyond high school is free from the anxieties and barriers of inadequate food, unaffordable housing, or costly childcare. We envision all Philadelphia-area colleges and universities being student-ready and fully able to meet their students’ basic needs to ensure their wellbeing and propel their academic success.

Through regular gatherings, technical assistance, research, and information sharing, the #RealCollegePHL effort aims to:

  1. Expand institutional knowledge about how to address student basic needs insecurity.
  2. Build partnerships between colleges and community partners to address basic needs.
  3. Diversify services to address food and housing insecurity among college students.
  4. Increase utilization of both campus-based services and public benefits like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to reduce basic needs insecurity.

The Latest Data

In fall 2020 nearly 9,000 students from 13 Philadelphia-area colleges and universities participated in the Hope Center’s annual #RealCollege Survey. This is what they told us about being a student during the pandemic:

  • 38% had a close friend or family member who got sick with COVID-19
  • 12% lost a loved one to COVID-19
  • 37% lost their primary job during the pandemic
  • 12% experienced homelessness in the last 12 months
  • 42% were housing insecure in the last 12 months
  • 28% were food insecure in the last 30 days
  • Black students’ rate of basic needs insecurity was 19 percentage points higher than White students’ rate of need.
  • Most students who are in need are not getting supports
  • At two-year colleges, only 25% of students who were basic needs insecure received SNAP
  • Just 18% of students at private 4-year colleges and 9% of public four-year students with basic needs insecurity accessed SNAP.
  • 70% of students tell us they didn’t apply for supports or public benefits because they believe they are ineligible

Read our 2020 #RealCollege Survey Philadelphia-area report to learn more. Then, check out our complimentary report about the challenges faced by Philadelphians who are enrolling in college for the first time or trying to return after stopping out. Lastly, you can see our 2019 #RealCollege Survey report for the Philadelphia area here.

Taking Action

Equipped with data, new tools, and new relationships, #RealCollegePHL participants are addressing college students’  basic needs insecurity through evidence-based and creative strategies. Philadelphia colleges are centralizing resources through the creation of effective webpages, leveraging institution-wide buy-in through the creation of Basic Needs Task Forces, promoting SNAP and other public benefits, and distributing millions in Emergency Aid to students. Philadelphia community organizations have been housing homeless students, advocating for public policies to expand public benefits for students, and helping students access free or reduced-price food.

#RealCollegePHL Webinar on the latest Philadelphia-Area Report Release

Watch The Hope Center’s May 27 webinar recording to get an overview of the Philadelphia survey results and to learn more about how the pandemic impacted student basic needs, how students, college staff and community organizations responded, and what changes we need to make in policy and higher education practice to ensure a better future for #RealCollege students.

List of Participating Institutions

Alvernia University
Camden County College
Chestnut Hill College
Community College of Philadelphia
Drexel University
Kutztown University
La Salle University
Moore College of Art and Design
Orleans Technical College
Peirce College
Temple University
University of Pennsylvania (Graduate School of Education)
University of the Arts
University of the Sciences
West Chester University of Pennsylvania

Resources for Students:

Join us now

If you are an institution of higher education, community organization, or policymaker interested in reducing basic needs insecurity among our city’s striving college students, reach out to us at

This work is generously supported by the Lenfest Foundation, and our community partners include the Mayor’s Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity.

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