Project to Identify How HSIs Can Assess Basic Needs, Foster Student Success

March 04, 2020

By The University of Texas at San Antonio

UTSA is collaborating with San Antonio College on a project to build a statewide network of Hispanic Serving Institutions to understand basic needs initiatives contribution to student success. 

The project is part of the ECMC Foundation’s Basic Needs Initiative. The initiative is a first-of-its-kind effort in postsecondary education for basic needs security among students to promote strong academic performance, persistence, well-being and graduation. 

The UTSA-SAC partnership is one of seven organizations that received grants from the ECMC Foundation totaling $3.1 million over three years to address nonacademic issues such as food and housing security, child care, mental health, financial assistance and transportation.

“The overarching goal of this collaborative project is to build capacity and understand the landscape of BNIs in HSIs in the state of Texas. Concerted efforts will be made to link BNIs to student success,” said Thankam Sunil, professor of public health and director of UTSA’s Institute for Health Disparities Research. 

The UTSA-SAC project, titled “Linking Basic Needs Initiatives to Student Success: Building Evidence-Based Practice in Hispanic-Serving Institutions in Texas,” received a $313,000 grant and will consist of three phases that will run over the course of 2.5 years. 

During phase one, SAC and UTSA researchers will conduct interviews with administrators at Texas HSIs. The first phase includes the identification of institutional implementation and assessment of student success practices and outcome measures, such as persistence and completion. HSIs are defined as schools that have a 25% or higher Hispanic full-time undergraduate student population.

The second phase will increase institutional capacity to engage in a robust monitoring and evaluation of the Basic Needs Initiatives achieved through individualized consultation. The third phase will build a statewide network of colleges and universities to support the advancement of evidence-based BNIs to improve student success.

“This grant represents an opportunity to examine the relationship between the BNIs and student success and to amplify the capacity to better serve our students,” said Lisa Zottarelli, associate professor of sociology at San Antonio College. “[We’re] building upon a statewide network of leaders, building this capacity, so we can engage in evidence-based practice and understanding how BNIs are related to student success.”

Xiaohe Xu, professor and chair of UTSA’s Department of Sociology, added, “This project is important because as a Hispanic Serving Institution, we have a great number of students that are likely to be socioeconomically disadvantaged that could greatly benefit from its results.”

ECMC’s Foundation Basic Needs Initiative was created in response to research from the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice, California State University, MDRC and the National Bureau of Economic Research, among others. The research found that basic needs insecurity is prevalent among students at two- and four-year campuses and impacts students’ persistence and graduation outcomes.


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