Young Invincibles launches survey to assess student basic needs at California universities

August 14, 2023 /

With a goal to understand the gaps in services or resources for students, Young Invincibles (YI) have launched a Basic Needs Survey for any students who attend a California State University (CSU), community college, or University of California (UC) school. 

Young Invincibles is a nonprofit organization that aims to help young adults in becoming economically independent while empowering them to get civically engaged with their community. Those that are interested in taking the survey have until tomorrow, August 15, to participate. 

The idea for the survey came to YI after California law AB 132 was passed, a law that states that each college and university must add a Basic Needs Coordinator or designated staff member to oversee a Basic Needs Center or a combination of services and resources that equals the standard of the center. 

Kern Sol News spoke with Alfredo Camacho, Western Regional Director for YI, about what a Basic Needs Center is and how students can take advantage of what their tuition dollars pay for.

The Basic Needs Center is described by the bill as providing students with access to free applications such as FAFSA and CalFresh. Other necessary services to make state requirements include: each campus must have an accessible list online and in person that can clearly show where to find off-campus and on-campus resources, services that address food insecurity by directly providing nutritional food options to students on campus through a pantry or programming, financial aid and staff guidance for transfer students and students planning on transferring after achieving an AA certification, expansions to work-study program, more opportunities to receive grants, and so on. 

It’s been over a year since the July and February deadlines in 2021 that require all California higher education institutions to make changes that reflect policy from AB 132. All California students enrolled in higher education have a right to the services and resources listed in AB 132.

In Bakersfield, it’s essential for students to understand they have a right to free, easy-to-access on or off-campus basic needs services. According to the LA Times, one in ten students will experience homelessness, and in the CSU system that number is about ten percent.

“There are a lot of gaps and not everyone is getting the same experience from a Basic Needs Center,” Camacho stated.

Camacho shared that YI hopes to add a specific coalition for Basic Needs in order to handle gaps in care for students in areas like housing and food security. His advice for students is to understand what their rights are according to the state of California, and what services should be offered to them by their school. YI uses education and advocacy to alert the public when institutions mismanage the funding for student resources.

“The state understands that merely giving people an education and giving people the Pel grant or even the Board of Governors waiver, the state understands that is not enough anymore,” explained Camacho. 

Eren Salyer, a student at CSUB explained how a lack of access to basic needs services negatively impacted his student experience.

“I do think that the CSU system as a whole is not doing enough to help its student body, considering that there hasn’t been much relief since the CARES Act of 2022 distribution whilst the cost of tuition has continually gone up,” said Salyer.

Although Salyer expressed having difficult moments in college due to financial burdens he stated that CSUB’s Basic Needs Coordinator and Case Manager was helpful. 

“I met Dr. Watkins at a food distribution for basic needs a few years back. Then when I had a personal emergency that required immediate housing, I got to know Dr. Watkins and Ms. Cantrell very well. When I went into emergency housing, Dr. Watkins was the first person I contacted and he referred me out to Ms. Cantrell. If it weren’t for Dr. Watkins, I probably would not have thought to even think about going to CSUB for a matter such as housing,” Salyer said.

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