Institutions of higher education are increasingly considering how to support students who are struggling due to insecurities in basic needs, also referred to as “non-tuition” or “non-academic supports,” “material hardships,” or “essential needs.” To address the adverse effect of basic needs gaps on students’ success, institutions are increasingly establishing and expanding structures to address students’ basic needs. As staff and faculty work to understand the complexity of basic needs and the programs and services needed to address them, institutions of higher education must critically examine their role in addressing basic needs insecurity and the opportunity to re-envision structures and practices. Basic needs programs and services range from providing material goods (e.g., food pantries, diaper distributions) or individual assistance (e.g., Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), enrollment navigation, case management) to campus policies that address systemic barriers faced by students (e.g., early disbursement of financial aid, use of FAFSA information to enroll students in public benefits). The categories that fall under the basic needs umbrella and the efforts to address those needs vary from institution to institution.

Recognizing the structural variety of basic needs work, CAS’s Basic Needs Standards provide both a pragmatic and aspirational approach to how a basic needs functional area might be structured and supported in a variety of environments. The accompanying Self-Assessment Guide (SAG) provides an operational version of the standards and is designed to provide users with an assessment tool that can be used for self-study or self-assessment purposes.

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