It’s been nearly a year since Benefits Data Trust (BDT) released our toolkit helping colleges use data to identify students eligible for benefit programs that help pay for food and healthcare. Since then, federal data has confirmed the scale of the student basic needs crisis: Nearly 1 in 4 undergraduate students face food insecurity, a rate higher than that of people not in school.
Higher education institutions across the country have increasingly turned their attention to supporting students’ basic needs. Here at BDT, we have spoken with so many dedicated college administrators and staff who work hard to help students get what they need to be able to focus on their studies, instead of where their next meal is coming from.
We are honored to kick off a partnership with the State University of New York (SUNY) to use our resource, Benefits Access for Student Success: A Toolkit for Leveraging Data to Find Eligible Students, to help students at five SUNY community colleges access benefits. Those schools include Finger Lakes Community College, Monroe Community College, Orange County Community College, Schenectady Community College, and Westchester Community College. As part of the partnership, we are working with each campus to develop messaging and outreach strategies that best engage and serve students. New York Governor Kathy Hochul included our partnership in her 2024 State of the State report, sharing our plan to work with each campus to develop messaging and outreach strategies that best engage and serve students.
With more than 360,000 total students, SUNY is the country’s largest comprehensive university system, and we are thrilled to work by their side to support efforts to improve participation by eligible students in SNAP.
In addition to the five community colleges, BDT will work to develop system-wide strategies for improving benefits access across SUNY’s more than 60 campuses. This engagement will support the system and its campuses to fulfill a call to action from Chancellor John B. King, Jr., in his 2023 policy agenda to campus presidents to identify every student eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and provide personalized outreach and application support by Fall 2024.
With more than 360,000 total students, SUNY is the country’s largest comprehensive university system, and we are thrilled to work by their side to support efforts to improve participation by eligible students in SNAP. As noted by SUNY Chancellor King in his 2023 policy agenda, while SNAP can provide hundreds of dollars a month to pay for food and groceries and results in higher student retention rates, many college students eligible for SNAP are not enrolled.
Data shows that nationwide, more than two million students are eligible for but not enrolled in SNAP, amounting to $3 billion left on the table each year in dollars that could help them afford the true cost of college.
I am excited that this work is underway with our SUNY partners and look forward to what we can learn about student benefits access, while helping today’s SUNY students apply for the critical programs that can help them reach their goals.
The toolkit, available to download for free here, includes eight practical tools designed for college administrators to use on their own or with support from BDT. Read this fact sheet to learn more about our strategies to increase student access to public benefits.