2019 Grants Challenge
🎉 Winner

Inspiring Student Action to End Student Homelessness and Hunger in L.A. Through Awareness and Coordinated Services Integration

Idea by Rise, Inc.

Even with significant financial aid, many college students in Los Angeles are without stable shelter (20% of community college students) or food insecure. The inability to cover basic needs has decreased graduation rates, overwhelmingly affecting students from low and middle income families. Rise will raise awareness and utilization of the housing and food programs available to students and drive additional resources to address these issues, ultimately increasing higher education accessibility.

Briefly tell us a story that demonstrates how your organization turns inspiration into impact.

In 2018, Rise’s students led an unprecedented campaign to stop tuition hikes at the CSU (3.8% prospective hike) and UC (2.5% prospective hike) that were previously approved by each system’s governing board and would have affected over 700,000 students.

Between January and June of 2018, Rise led more than 15 lobbying trips for students to participate in legislative hearings and meet directly with state legislators to demand more state funding for public higher education.

One of those students was Sadia Khan. Sadia is the daughter of Pakistani immigrants, and comes from what she describes as a “very low-income background." Her father worked as a farm laborer to provide for the family, and more than anything wanted his children to receive an education. When her father died from a terminal illness during her 1st semester at San Bernardino Valley College, Sadia knew she had to keep her promise to her dad to get a higher education. Unfortunately, a year later, Sadia was raped and became pregnant, forcing her to take time off from school so that she could give birth to her son.

Finally, in the spring of 2017, Sadia was accepted to Berkeley as a 3rd-year transfer student. A holdup with her FAFSA left Sadia, a single parent, homeless and struggling to afford food. For the first 2 weeks of the semester, she slept on the floor of her friend’s 8-person, off-campus house and went to the food bank on campus for her meals. Overwhelmed by the stress of her financial insecurity, Sadia finally took out a $6,000 personal loan.

Along with 15 to 20 other Berkeley students, Sadia rode a bus to the Sacramento Capitol building in March 2018 to attend a public hearing for the 2018-2019 education budget proposals. In her testimony, Sadia ran through her experiences since arriving on campus: struggling to afford food and housing and taking out loans just to cover the expenses her financial aid would have been allocated to had it not been delayed.

By June of 2018, the tuition increases slated for the CSU and UC systems were taken off the table after Rise students like Sadia showed up together to personally share with legislators the increased burden it would place on them.

This is how Rise harnesses student power to create change.

Which of the LEARN metrics will your submission impact?​​

College and community college completion rates

College matriculation rates

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?​

County of Los Angeles

City of Los Angeles

How will your project make LA the best place to LEARN?

Rise’s campaign to end student homelessness and hunger in Los Angeles will engage local community college and university students and community-based service providers to take meaningful action with the ultimate goal of making higher education in Los Angeles accessible to all.

To the detriment of California's students, college tuition has increased exponentially since the 1980s. However, surprisingly, the greatest expense for students across the state’s higher education system isn’t tuition — it’s housing and other living costs. According to a survey recently published by researchers at the Wisconsin HOPE Lab, more than a third of college students lack stable housing and don't always have enough to eat.

To make matters worse, there is a large disparity in the financial aid given out by community colleges versus universities - the lower the tuition cost, the lower the financial aid that is granted. Because community college students are less likely to seek and qualify for federal loans, and many community colleges don’t offer them — students (and their families) are forced to come up with the remainder of the funds through work or other resources. This makes the effective cost of a community college education higher than for those who attend state colleges and universities.

Given the many obstacles facing students from low and middle-income backgrounds (in addition to a full college course-load), oftentimes students are unaware of the resources available to them or discouraged by the applications processes (e.g. CalFresh, affordable housing).

Rise’s “Homework not Homelessness” / “Homework not Hunger” campaign will address the student homelessness and food insecurity crises by 1) raising awareness of the resources available to students through on campus and community organizing efforts, 2) creating programs to facilitate easier application processes (ex. CalFresh) and greater utilization of resources via partnerships (ex. local food banks). The campaign will increase students’ awareness and utilization of resources, positively impacting college matriculation and graduation rates due to the increased accessibility of higher education, especially for students from low and middle-income families.

Our campaign leverages our unique expertise in building winning student-led advocacy campaigns with a relentless focus on inspiring supporters and building coalitions.

Targeting: Rise identifies “pressure points” and mobilizes students’ advocacy efforts accordingly.

Inspiration: Rise inspires students and supporters through positive, aspirational messaging.

Coalitions: Rise expands our reach through partnerships with student groups. Our growing coalition represents more than 250,000 students at 55 colleges within California Community Colleges, California State Universities, and the University of California system.

In what stage of innovation is this project?​

Lateral application (testing feasibility of a proven action/solution to a new issue or sector)

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.​

Rise’s mission is to make higher education accessible to all - and the first step of this mission is to ensure that students’ basic needs, food and shelter, are met. Solving for these basic needs will allow students from low and middle-income families to focus on their education as opposed to simply surviving. It will take some time to see increased college matriculation and graduation rates, but in the first two years of the project, we will define and measure success through:

I) Identifying the current resources available to students in Los Angeles that address student homelessness and food insecurity

II) Increasing student awareness of the resources available to them through on campus student training, organizing, events and activations. The number of student training and organizing meetings and events and activations at local community colleges/universities will be measured, as will the number of participants.

III) Increasing enrollment in available programs (ex. CalFresh) and increasing utilization of available resources (ex. food pantries) through coordinated services integration. Enrollment and utilization numbers will be measured as will partnerships with service providers.

In years one and two, we will collect baseline data to help us measure these outcomes. In years three through five, we will engage an external researcher to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the activities and outcomes of the campaign and assess the effectiveness of the project.