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Business Intel

January/February 2019


Battling Food Stigma

An important aspect of any food-assistance initiative is removing the stigma associated with seeking help, says Jessica Medina, coordinator, California State University (CSU), Fresno’s Food Security Project.

One way her institution normalizes the use of its Student Cupboard pantry is by making it available to all students, with no requirements to access the pantry other than current enrollment in classes.

The university also purposely does not collect or report personal data such as ethnicity or gender in connection with students who access the pantry, says Medina. “What we don’t want is for a particular student segment to stop coming in or accessing services because the students feel singled out.”

A certain level of anonymity is also preserved in daily operations. For example, while student volunteers help stock shelves and prepare hygiene packs, they aren’t present during pantry open hours, notes Medina. (Read also “The New Food Fight” in the September 2018 issue of Business Officer magazine.)

To further destigmatize food assistance, Medina advises getting the word out about your services early and often. She conducts presentations that highlight the multiple resources available to students, starting the first week of classes and continuing throughout the year. These resources include the university’s pantry, help with signing up for federal nutrition assistance, and appointments with a clinical case manager on staff with whom students can discuss what is driving their need.

Educate Everyone

It is equally important to educate faculty and staff about the real-life struggles of students, says Medina. “Faculty members need to understand that a student might not be falling asleep in class because he or she is bored or partied too much the night before. That student might be tired from sleeping in a car and because he or she hasn’t had a real meal in days.” It’s also important to educate faculty and staff about what services and resources are available, so that they can pass that information along to students as well.

“Our aim is to make this challenge real, to make this an open conversation on campus so that there is a level of awareness about actual student experiences on a daily basis,” says Medina. To that end, she encourages hosting open conversations about food insecurity with students in the broader context of what college life is like, including the range of pressures and stresses students face today. “Encourage students to share their stories, and find faculty or staff members who can talk about their own struggles while in college,” suggests Medina.

Normalize Program Use

Reducing the stigma surrounding food insecurity is a large part of the culture change sought by those working to address issues of student hunger at Portland Community College, notes Stephen Arthur, manager of student life for PCC’s Sylvania Campus, Portland, Ore. “This can come through even in small ways, like providing a shopping experience for students in our food pantries where students can self-select and customize from the list of available items what they want to put in their bags, rather than simply handing them a bag of prepacked items.”

In addition to serving as the primary conduit for pantry funding, the institution’s PCC Foundation generates additional scholarship and bridge funds for a variety of student financial assistance needs, including child care and transit subsidies, notes Dee Wilson, PCC’s bursar. Wilson participated in an earlier housing and food insecurity task force for the college. “One clear aim from that was the need for us to get the word out about the full menu of programs and services the college provides.” Her office worked with PCC’s Web team to create a new student life resource page providing links to all PCC programs and services along with grant information and applications.

It’s also important for campuses to recognize that, when it comes to advocating for themselves, students have a wide range of comfort levels. “Whenever we train individuals to assist students, or however we advertise our services, we are working to normalize the use of these programs the same way as any other program and service on campus,” says Arthur.

Not making food assistance a separate message is the approach taken by St. John’s University, Queens, N.Y., as well. Kathryn Hutchinson, vice president for student affairs, says her institution’s overarching goal is to provide more wraparound services to students. “We appeal directly to faculty by including information about how to refer a student who presents with financial concerns or food insecurity alongside other services they refer students to—whether for academic tutoring or career advising,” notes Hutchinson. “When you include food assistance with the full list of student services, that helps reduce the stigma attached to seeking help.”

KARLA HIGNITE, Fort Walton Beach, Fla., is a contributing editor for Business Officer.


HBCU, HSI Students Head to Google

Sixty-five rising juniors and five faculty members from 11 historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs) are participating in a study-away initiative on the campus of Google, Mountain View, Calif., for the 2018–19 academic year.

The Google Tech Exchange Program was established to offer students at HBCUs and HSIs the opportunity to take computer science and soft skills classes at Googleplex for one year or one semester during their junior year.

Institutions participating in Google’s program are Morgan State University; Howard University; Florida A&M University; California State University, Dominguez Hills; New Mexico State University; Prairie View A&M University; North Carolina A&T State University; Dillard University; University of Texas at El Paso; University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez; and Spelman College.

The primary benefits to students participating in the program include:

Google’s Tech Exchange builds on the success of a 2017 pilot program between Google and Howard University, based in Washington, D.C. The program, which came to be known as “Howard West,” consisted of 26 students who completed a three-month computer science education program. Half of those students have since found engineering internships at Google or elsewhere in the tech industry, according to Google.

By the Numbers

New Data on Postsecondary Enrollment

In November 2018, the National Center for Education Statistics released a new “first look” report

that presents data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

Enrollment and Employees in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2017; and Financial Statistics and Academic Libraries, Fiscal Year 2017 provides preliminary data from several IPEDS survey components: enrollment for fall 2017; finance for FY17; and data on employees in postsecondary education for fall 2017.

See below for the By the Numbers Infographic.

New enrollments of international students fell by 6.6 percent at American universities in academic year 2017–18, compared to the year before.
–2018 Open Doors Report

Fast Fact

Quick Clicks

Community Colleges, Employers Are Key Partners

Employer engagement is widespread at New York state’s community colleges, according to a survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. A typical community college in the state engages with more than 100 employers, spanning every major industry sector, including health care, manufacturing, utilities, and tourism, according to the Employer Engagement by Community Colleges in New York State report. Despite financial and staffing constraints, most community colleges in New York plan to increase the amount of engagement in the next few years by enhancing existing relationships with local employers and finding new employers with whom to work.

Employers Plan to Increase College Hiring

Employers expect to hire 16.6 percent more new graduates from the Class of 2019 than they did from the Class of 2018 for various positions in the United States, according to results of a recent survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). Ninety-six percent of employers plan to maintain or increase their hiring, according to NACE’s Job Outlook 2019 survey. While 38.6 percent of responding employers plan to increase their hires, only four percent of respondents will decrease their hires.

By The Numbers

New Data on Postsecondary Enrollment

Source: National Center for Education Statistics, Enrollment and Employees in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2017; and Financial Statistics and Academic Libraries, Fiscal Year 2017 First Look (Preliminary Data). Available online at