UO launches new program to help students with basic needs

The Student Food Pantry

The University of Oregon is expanding its student-centered basic needs program to meet increasing needs for students. The program is a standalone initiative housed in the Office of the Dean of Students.

The university has supported students in securing access to basic needs resources using the UO's care and advocacy program through the Office of the Dean of Students and other campus departments. The new basic needs program will expand those services to provide additional support and resources to meet the needs of current and future students while fulfilling the requirements of the Oregon Legislature’s House Bill 2835.

“The attainment of basic needs and the consistent meeting of those basic needs is essential and foundational to student success,” said Jimmy Howard, associate dean of students, during the UO’s March 2022 board of trustees meeting. “Students are having a hard time right now in terms of showing up to classes because they’re hungry or they don’t have a secure place to sleep.”

The new program not only will support students in navigating benefits through the university but also those provided by the state, such as housing assistance and food benefits. The program will be staffed by a director, two coordinators and a number of student employees and volunteers.

In addition to helping address student need, the program will help the university meet the requirements of HB 2835, which Oregon lawmakers passed in June 2021. The bill requires Oregon’s public universities and community colleges to hire and train a benefit navigator and participate in a consortium of higher education institutions to share best practices.

Assessment tools will be created and connected to existing measurement tools to map out the specific needs of students.

One measure the university currently uses is applications for the Students in Crisis Fund. Of the more than 4,000 applications submitted to the fund during the 2021-22 academic year, 54.6 percent sought housing support through rental assistance.

The director of basic needs and off-campus support will lead the basic needs program at the UO and act as a liaison between the university and the state as part of the Oregon Basic Needs Coalition. The university is nearing the final stage of hiring for the position.

In the meantime, the university has two coordinators to help students navigate benefits related to food, housing and financial security. The coordinators work with student workers and volunteers to provide peer support for students.

The UO basic needs program is supported by the Office of the Dean of Students, ASUO funds from the incidental fee, and the state.

—By Anna Nguyen, University Communications