#RealCollege™ Texas Policy Initiative

#RealCollege™ Texas Policy Initiative

The #RealCollege™ Texas Policy Initiative is a project to identify state policy and systems changes that will reduce basic needs insecurity among college students in Texas, improving their ability to academically thrive, graduate from college, and contribute to the Texas economy. Leaders from 14 institutions of higher education across Texas who previously participated in the Hope Center #RealCollegeTexas student survey have formed a task force to lead this initiative. With the Hope Center’s support in policy analysis, the task force will review policy options in eight key areas and distill them into an agenda for equitable policy reform. Furthermore, an advisory committee of leading experts and practitioners will provide input and feedback at each step of the process.

College students in Texas don’t have a moment to lose. A Hope Center survey of students at the 14 colleges participating in the RealCollege™ Texas Policy Initiative found that more than four in ten had experienced food insecurity over the past year and one in six had been homeless. The COVID-19 pandemic had deeply affected them as well, with almost one in five reporting that they had lost a loved one to COVID and one in twelve saying that they had personally gotten sick with COVID-19.

The impact of widespread basic needs insecurity can be seen in students’ academic outcomes. Just under two-thirds of Texas students seeking a bachelor’s degree obtain any degree within six years. For students starting at a community or technical college, just over four in ten graduate with a degree in six years. Recognition is growing that basic needs insecurity undermines academic success at every level, and that what appear to be academic shortcomings often start with struggles over food, housing, child care, mental health, transportation, and more.

I worked a lot to earn a little to pay for gas, food, and rent and so my first [few] years in college were not good. I had too much to worry about and couldn’t focus on each class, which led to grades that I’m not proud of.

2-year college student

The RealCollege™ Texas Policy Initiative will explore policies that can make a difference for students. Other states have found that a wide variety of measures, such as expanding eligibility for food, medical, and childcare benefit programs, subsidizing apartment rent, recognizing institutions that take action to ensure food security, and calling on institutions to provide evidence-based mental health supports can measurably improve students’ basic needs security, freeing them to devote their energies to academic study and engagement with the culture of learning.

Guided by on-the-ground leaders in higher education and basic needs security, the RealCollege™ Texas Policy Initiative seeks to make concrete and durable changes in the college experience of Texas residents who aspire to a better life through higher education.

RealCollege™ Texas Task Force

Amarillo College
Austin Community College
Concordia University Texas
El Paso Community College
Grayson College
Houston Community College
Howard College
North Central Texas College
Odessa College
Paul Quinn College
Prairie View A&M
South Plains College
Texas Southern University
Texas State Technical College

RealCollege™ Texas Advisory Committee

Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty
Breakthrough Texas
Center for Community College Student Engagement (UT- Austin)
Dallas County Community College District
Educate Texas
Every Texan
Feeding Texas
Greater Texas Foundation
HCM Strategists
Jeremiah Program
JOLT Action
Office of Institutional Research and Analysis (OIRA) at The University of Texas System
T.L.L. Temple Foundation
Texas 2036
Texas Assoc of Collegiate Financial Ed Professionals (TACFEP)
Texas Association of Community Colleges
Texas Higher Education Foundation
Trellis Company
United Way of Greater Austin
Western Governors University
Young Invincibles