​Calif. offers to pay for 'basic needs' of students

The state of California shelled out $1.5 million to the University of California, Santa Cruz, where students  have “insufficiently nutritious food.” 

UCSC will use these funds for what the university has termed “basic needs” programs, according to a school news release. Over $350,000 is being allotted for housing of homeless students or those at imminent risk of homelessness.

"Tuition isn't the issue. The cost of attendance is skyrocketing because of the cost of rent,” Tim Galarneau, a UCSC Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems research and education specialist, said in the release. “This isn’t a one-time problem...this is a permanent change on the educational landscape, and universities and colleges are having to address the basic needs of their students."

The cost of tuition at UCSC for the 2019-2020 year is $13,989, according to the school's website. The cost of on-campus room and board is $16,950 and the cost of off-campus room and board is $13,215.  

According to the most recent data on housing costs in Santa Cruz, available on UCSC's website, the average cost for a room in a shared household in Santa Cruz in 2018 was $1,017, nearly $400 less than the national average cost of rent in June 2018. 

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UCSC cites “food insecurity” as another direction for the funding, asserting that 48 and 31 percent of undergraduate and graduate students, respectively, experience food insecurity, which accounts for both the lack of food and lack of nutritious food. These statistics are 44 and 26 percent on the UC system level.

UCSC claims that “basic needs insecurity” manifests in a 0.3 decrease in undergraduate students’ grade-point averages (GPAs), as well as a three to six month-delay in graduate degree completion.

“It's crazy, this federal money is so easy to get I guess,” UCSC College Republicans Vice President John Weatherford told Campus Reform. “Our school has three or more free food pantries on campus. You should not be coming to school if you can't pay for food. It's not anyone else's responsibility. Certainly not the taxpayers.” 

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Campus Reform also spoke with UCSC director of news and media relations Scott Hernandez-Jason, who provided more details on “food insecurity.”

“According to a 2015 systemwide survey, 19 percent of UC students indicated they had ‘very low’ food security, which the USDA defines as experiencing reduced food intake at times due to limited resources,” Hernandez-Jason said. “An additional 23 percent were characterized as having ‘low’ food security, defined by the USDA as reduced quality, variety or desirability of diet, with little or no indication of reduced food intake.”

The director linked to a plan UC designed to address these issues.

“For students who are in need of healthy food, we have a nontransactional cafe and food store on campus. We also have pop-up food markets,” Hernandez-Jason told Campus Reform. “Students can also go to Slug Support for additional help. That program involves an intake process and case management. We also provide opportunities for them to sign up for Cal-Fresh, which determines if they are qualified for the program.”

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