Survey: Majority of UH students struggled to meet basic needs during pandemic

Now the system is trying to bridge the gap.
Published: Jun. 25, 2021 at 5:38 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A new survey shows many University of Hawaii students have struggled to met basic needs during the pandemic.

The questionnaire, which was done in collaboration with UH and The Hope Center, revealed 58% of respondents experienced at least one form of basic needs insecurity:

  • Some 39% experienced food insecurity in the last month;
  • 44% experienced housing insecurity in the last year;
  • And 14% experienced homelessness in the last year.

The survey was sent out to students last fall and about 1,000 people responded.

Results also revealed students dealt with high levels of unemployment and anxiety.

“The rates are somewhat shocking if you think about the sheer number of students who may be experiencing some form of deprivation,” said Albie Miles, UH assistant professor of sustainable community food systems and the chair of UH’s Basic Needs Committee.

“This is a societal issue. But students who often are a very limited income as they’re pursuing their higher education, often are even further resource-constrained.”

UH is putting together a master plan to help students meet those basic needs, including a website that lists resources for all campuses as well as local and federal assistance.

Rainbow Ulii, a graduate student at UH as well as a basic needs coordinator, knows first-hand how struggling with the basics can impact a student.

“I can remember times in my undergrad where I just felt like I can’t make ends meet,” she said.

“I thought I might have to actually just call it quits, and focus on working because there was no way that I can continue going to school if there’s no solid income to help pay for my bills or to pay for food or to pay for gas.”

She said she is surprised by how many colleagues don’t reach out for help or apply for benefits such as SNAP.

“It’s not the student’s fault that they’re insecure of basic needs,” she said. “And so if we can help students to understand those things, we also think that we’ll be able to break some of those stigmas that kind of come with basic needs insecurity.”

Miles said the University of Hawaii cannot bridge the gap alone.

“It’s important to point out that this is a systemic issue that students are facing,” Miles said. “The cost of higher education continues to increase. Financial aid packages are not keeping pace with the cost of living and the cost of tuition. So it’s making it more and more difficult.”

“What we’re seeing is these students who are struggling with the affordability of attending college, are experiencing these different types of basic needs and security.”

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