Towards Socially Responsible Higher Education: “Closing the Gap” Initiatives

Towards Socially Responsible Higher Education: “Closing the Gap” Initiatives

Calley Stevens Taylor (Cedar Crest College, USA) and Mary-Alice Ozechoski (Alvernia Unversity, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2177-9.ch003
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This chapter proposes that higher education has a responsibility to reduce disparities in college completion rates and argues that emergency aid programs should serve as an important component of this work. It offers an overview of recent research on the impact of basic needs gaps, with special attention to issues relating to food and housing insecurity. Organizations, colleges, and universities working to close resource gaps are then described. These examples demonstrate the wide range of programs and services being put in place to address these needs among college students, which, without intervention, can significantly hinder college completion. Finally, the authors offer a series of recommendations and resources for higher education professionals and partners interested in implementing or expanding emergency aid and other basic needs programs for college students.
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Why Emergency Aid?

With a majority of students reporting that an unexpected expense of just $500 could force them to drop out of college (Gewirtz & Thornton, 2018), a key strategy for mitigating the negative impact financial pressures can have on college success is the implementation of emergency aid. Emergency aid on college campuses usually refers to one or more of the following: campus vouchers, completion scholarships, emergency loans, food and resource pantries, and grants (Kruger, Parnell, & Wesaw, 2016). These programs and services strive to meet students’ basic needs, support students during unexpected or emergency situations that could derail their education, or close the gap between financial aid resources and the actual cost of college.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Basic Needs: Elements necessary to ensure an individual’s health and safety, including food, shelter, and clothing.

Emergency Aid: Resources or services provided in response to an emergency or unexpected loss of existing resources. Examples include food pantries, temporary housing, clothing closets, vouchers, and grants.

Housing Insecurity: Inconsistent or unpredictable access to safe, affordable shelter. May refer to individuals who are homeless; individuals who reside in shelters or other short-term facilities, motels, or hotels; or individuals who stay with family or friends as a result of economic hardship.

Degree Attainment Gap: Variation in level of college completion rates between populations or subpopulations.

Under-Resourced Students: Individuals who do not have sufficient resources to avoid gaps in basic needs during college or university study. Also includes individuals who are without access to educational resources such as textbooks.

Food Insecurity: Inconsistent or unpredictable access to sufficient, affordable, and healthy food.

Financial Aid: Money provided to cover direct educational costs like tuition, fees, and textbooks. In some cases, surpluses may be used to pay for related expenses like housing. May be issued through federal, state, or institutional programs.

Emergency Grants: Direct financial support provided in response to a personal, medical, or financial emergency. Generally awarded in amounts of $1,000 or less and often only available once other financial resources have been exhausted.

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