The Special Committee, which was created in 2018 to produce recommendations on basic needs for UC students, heard from UC Basic Needs Committee Co-Chairs Tim Galarneau and Ruben Canedo, who presented about the coronavirus pandemic’s economic and social toll on the UC and its students before going on to review recommendations.
“We can now visibly see how income levels, ethnicity, family structure, citizenship status and access to healthcare affect student’s access to education and their mental health,” a UC San Diego student observer said during the meeting.
“And those disparities have definitely been visible when it comes to basic needs resources,” the student observer continued.
Yvette Gullatt, vice provost for Diversity and Engagement and chief outreach officer for the University of California, said the special committee is concerned with both “articulat[ing] our concerns while also moving forward” and has delayed discussion about its recommendations for the UC Regents September meeting, when the committee would be evaluating how pertinent their recommendations have proven to be.
One goal of the new recommendations is to “advocate for greater investment in financial aid at the federal, state and university levels.” Paired with the timing of the coronavirus pandemic, additional financial aid could serve to reduce the financial burden many UC students are currently experiencing.
The UC has currently been allocated $260 million through the federal C.A.R.E.S. act, $130 million of which was allocated to campuses for the distribution of emergency grants for students, according to Director of Student Financial Support Shawn Brick.
UC Student Regent Hayley Wheddle, the head of the Special Committee, spearheaded the basic needs report over her year-long term; Tuesday’s meeting was her last as a student regent. She commended the UC on “proactively looking to fill the gaps” in financial aid, as the committee aims to push federal funding going forward, according to the committee’s draft recommendations.
Throughout the meeting, presenters and speakers emphasized the need to utilize CalFresh, which can now be used to purchase online groceries, and the possibility of waiving the 20-hour per-week work requirements that are usually necessary to qualify for the food assistance program.
Their drafted recommendations emphasized the importance of maximizing overall enrollment in CalFresh through “running large-scale onsite CalFresh enrollment clinics,” as well as “training county departments of social services workers to support UC students with CalFresh application and enrollment.”
In addition, the committee hopes to assist students who are not eligible for CalFresh with various on-campus programs and aims to close the 22% gap in food insecurity between first-generation and non-first-generation students, according to the report.
Campuses have been made responsible for UC students who are now, due to moving back to their hometowns, closer to a different UC campus than the one that they are enrolled in. According to the committee Co-Chair Tim Galarneau, UC students can receive certain services on any given campus such as meal swipes, bagged grocery pickup, temporary housing and emergency grants regardless of which campus they’re enrolled at.
But because of the coronavirus pandemic, Galarneau said, many campuses are inherently under-equipped for “daily uncertainties and major changes to resources, policies, processes, and decision making” as a result of limited staffing and uncertainty surrounding future funds.
With basic needs providers on college campuses designated as first responders to the coronavirus pandemic, the Special Committee on Basic Needs hopes to address the challenges the UC is facing with help from local campuses and their basic needs providers.
“Our basic needs movement is a nascent one, coinciding with natural disasters and a pandemic, coinciding when food security and a sense of community have been needed the most,” Gullatt said. “It is changing as the needs of students change.”