New Jersey Launches BasicNeeds.NJ.gov to Support College Students’ Well-being
New Jersey Office of the Secretary of Higher Education unveiled BasicNeeds.NJ.gov, a comprehensive online resource for college students struggling with non-tuition challenges like housing, food, and child care.
Understanding the critical role that non-academic needs play in student success, the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education (OSHE) in New Jersey organized a statewide event on Friday to discuss and address basic needs insecurity. The convening, which took place at Kean University, marked the launch of BasicNeeds.NJ.gov. This online platform, a collaboration between the OSHE and the Office of Innovation, is designed to assist students in accessing a range of essential services, from housing and food assistance to child care and transportation.
The initiative aligns with Governor Phil Murphy's efforts to make higher education more accessible and affordable in New Jersey, with the goal of ensuring that 65% of New Jerseyans hold a high-quality credential by 2025. This approach includes addressing both academic and personal needs to facilitate postsecondary success.
“As my Administration continues to work toward making higher education more affordable and accessible throughout our state, we recognize that success depends on what happens both in and out of the classroom,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “Today’s students come from all different backgrounds and face any number of challenges in their day-to-day life beyond their ongoing studies. We must take a whole-of-government approach to supporting New Jersey students and understanding their unique challenges to help ensure their postsecondary success."
The day-long event at Kean University convened a dynamic set of speakers and stakeholders, including prominent national researcher Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab, representatives from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, and Complete College America, to inform and enhance basic needs programming for postsecondary students in New Jersey. Over 170 people attended, representing a combination of campus practitioners, students, community organizations, state agencies, and policymakers.
“Supporting students' basic needs security is not only the right thing to do, but it is also vital to ensuring that colleges and universities can fulfill their missions to help students achieve their academic goals,” said Dr. Brian K. Bridges, New Jersey Secretary of Higher Education. “In today's landscape, students grapple with unprecedented challenges and enhancing opportunities for communication between researchers, policymakers and practitioners is critical. This collaborative approach empowers us to innovate and formulate lasting solutions, focused on equitable support for all students."
Dr. Beth Simone Noveck, the New Jersey State Chief Innovation Officer, underscored the importance of including community partners and residents in the design and development of services like BasicNeeds.NJ.gov. This website is a part of the broader Resident Experience Initiative, funded by the federal American Rescue Plan, aiming to improve the delivery of benefits and services to New Jersey residents.
In the development of BasicNeeds.NJ.gov, the Office of Innovation and OSHE engaged with over 900 individuals and campus partners, conducting extensive outreach and ethnographic interviews with New Jersey college students. The platform will be continuously updated based on feedback from student users and various stakeholders.
The launch of this resource hub is particularly timely, considering the findings from OSHE’s COVID-19 Student Impact Survey and the 2019 #RealCollege Survey. These studies revealed increasing material hardships among New Jersey postsecondary students, particularly in areas like food and housing insecurity.
“Basic needs insecurity among students is a significant concern that affects students not only in New Jersey but nationally,” said Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab, Senior Fellow at Education Northwest and the convening keynote speaker. “At least one in every three students faces food insecurity, one in four is a parent while studying, and one of every two may be housing insecure. Knowing this allows us to recognize that students are humans first and addressing their personal needs and overall well-being is not tangential but central to their academic success."
This initiative is part of New Jersey's strategic investments to enhance postsecondary student success, including annual Hunger-Free Campus grants, the Some College, No Degree initiative, and mental health support for college students. It aligns with the Murphy Administration's broader efforts to achieve the goals outlined in the State Plan for Higher Education, which are crucial for New Jersey’s economic progress and overall prosperity.