Minnesota State Releases Basic Needs Survey

Posted: March 5, 2020

Contact: Doug Anderson, doug.anderson@MinnState.edu, 651-201-1426

Minnesota State Releases Basic Needs Survey
60% of college students, 54% of university students responding
have experienced some form of basic needs insecurity in the previous year.

ST. PAUL, Minn., March 5, 2020
– The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice released the results of the 2020 #RealCollege survey of students at 28 Minnesota State colleges and universities. The survey, which is an assessment of basic needs insecurity among college students, shows that 37% of respondents were food insecure in the prior 30 days, 48% were housing insecure in the previous year, and 18% experienced homelessness during the previous year. The study was part of the fifth annual #RealCollege nationwide survey conducted by the Hope Center.

“Successful completion of a degree or certificate program is challenging enough for any student, but it is particularly difficult for students who are hungry or do not have a place to live,” said Devinder Malhotra, chancellor of Minnesota State. “The success of our students is a primary focus of all of our colleges and universities, so connecting students to resources to help them meet basic needs is intrinsic to our commitment to our students and our obligations to meet the workforce needs of Minnesota.”

“It is clear that college is now about serious financial struggles, not partying,” said Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab, founding director of the Hope Center and the leading expert on basic needs insecurity among college students. “Money weighs heavily on students’ minds, and without a safe place to sleep and enough to eat they cannot concentrate on learning.”

All Minnesota State colleges and universities have some form of program in place to help address food insecurity. These programs include a food pantry or other program that provides food to students (such as mobile food pantries or making food available in common areas), or intentional partnerships with community organizations that address food insecurity.

Many Minnesota State colleges and universities have developed innovative programs to help students meet their basic needs. Examples include:

  • Central Lakes College relocated, expanded, and rebranded their food pantry, and secured grants from Second Harvest North Central Food Bank and Crow Wing Energized to purchase refrigeration equipment and new shelving. Through new partnerships with local Costco and Target stores, the food pantry at Central Lakes College now rescues an average of 2,500 lbs. of quality food each month and orders another 2,500 Ibs. from Second Harvest North Central each month. CLC’s #RealCollege survey data shows that the food-insecure student population decreased from 48% in 2018 to 41% in 2019.
  • North Hennepin Community College offers the Random Acts of Kindness Emergency Grant program. Funded by private donors, the program offers up to $500 to students who are experiencing financial hardship and who have an unforeseen financial barrier such as a car repair, medical costs, child care, transportation, food bills, urgent rent support to avoid eviction, or other needs they cannot meet. Since 2011, nearly $75,000 has been distributed benefitting over 200 students.
  • St. Cloud State University re-opened Stearns Hall as a “no-frills” housing option branded as “Simply Stearns” with rates that start at $404 per month (including high-speed internet and utilities). Features of this housing option are specially designed to make on-campus living more affordable and flexible. The hall is also open during all break periods to ensure housing remains secure and available for residents.
  • Dakota County Technical College created the Office of Social Navigation in Fall 2017 and staffed it with a Resources Navigator to address the overall basic needs and wellness of students. Through the work and support of DCTC Foundation, emergency grants and micro grants are available to students who are facing a financial barrier or crisis. In situations where campus resources are not enough, students are referred to community agencies such as 360Communities, Community Action Partnership (CAP), Goodwill, Salvation Army, Neighbors, Inc., and People Incorporated.

The Hope Center report also shows that significant disparities in basic needs insecurity exist according to race and ethnicity, as well as other demographic, academic, and economic characteristics. “This shows that addressing disparities in basic needs insecurity is certainly consistent with, if not critical to, achieving the goal of our Equity 2030 initiative: eliminating educational equity gaps,” said Malhotra. 

The #RealCollege survey for Minnesota was conducted at 28 colleges and universities of Minnesota State. Approximately 9,812 students attending the participating colleges and universities responded to the survey. 

The Hope Center defines food insecurity as the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe food, or the ability to acquire such food in a socially acceptable manner. Housing insecurity includes a broad set of challenges such as the inability to pay rent or utilities or the need to move frequently. Homelessness means that a person does not have a stable place to live. 

The full report is available at https://hope4college.com/minnesota-state-colleges-and-universities-realcollege-survey-report/.

The Minnesota State colleges and universities that participated in the 2020 #RealCollege survey include:

  • Alexandria Technical and Community College
  • Anoka Technical College
  • Anoka-Ramsey Community College
  • Central Lakes College (Brainerd and Staples campuses)
  • Dakota County Technical College
  • Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College
  • Hennepin Technical College
  • Hibbing Community College
  • Inver Hills Community College
  • Itasca Community College
  • Mesabi Range College
  • Minneapolis College
  • Minnesota State College Southeast
  • Minnesota State Community and Technical College
  • Normandale Community College
  • North Hennepin Community College
  • Northland Community and Technical College
  • Northwest Technical College
  • Rainy River Community College
  • Ridgewater College
  • Riverland Community College
  • Rochester Community and Technical College
  • Saint Paul College
  • St. Cloud Technical and Community College
  • Metropolitan State University
  • Minnesota State University Moorhead
  • Southwest Minnesota State University 


Minnesota State includes 30 community and technical colleges and seven state universities serving approximately 350,000 students. It is the third-largest system of two-year colleges and four-year universities in the United States.