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First Things First: Providing for Student’s Basic Needs

UHD Awarded Major Funding from U.S. Department of Education


By Marie Jacinto

“Enhancing Student Success” is the first goal of UHD’s 2022-27 Strategic Plan, “A New Paradigm,” and UHD’s number one priority. 

Optimizing lifelong Student Success and engagement means meeting students where they are. 

“We understand that Student Success depends upon our addressing our students’ basic needs first,” stated Lynette Cook-Francis, UHD Interim Vice President for Student Success and Student Life.

With that in mind, Houston-area college graduation rates and workforce development are about to get a boost, thanks to major grants from the U.S. Department of Education. Combined, UHD and University of Houston-Clear Lake (UHCL) will receive almost $2 million for their Basic Needs Program–Supporting Student Success Programs.

The funding expands financial assistance for students experiencing food, housing, transportation, and physical/mental health care insecurities. These measures will ensure that more students have the ability to stay in school instead of “stopping out.” Keeping students in school ensures they graduate in a timely manner and enter the workforce with degrees of value, becoming leaders in their professions and communities. Ultimately, improved retention and graduation rates affect socioeconomic mobility for generations to come._DSC1381

“I meet regularly with students, and I have heard first-hand the basic needs of the UHD student body,” stated UHD President Loren J. Blanchard. 

“This grant will allow us to create a Basic Needs Center to build an evidence base for how the University will provide students with social services supports in the future,” continued Blanchard. “With the implementation of a collaboration and connections approach, the Basic Needs Center will consolidate existing campus-level interventions and services, improve awareness of and access to these services, and increase available resources, allowing students facing basic-needs insecurities to stabilize and experience academic success.”

“A recent basic needs survey told us that 39% of UHD students are having difficulty paying for the increased cost of utilities, and 36% of UHD students are having difficulty paying their rent or mortgages,” said Cook-Francis. “With nearly one in three UHD students responsible for caring for a dependent, emergency dependent care is critical to support their success. Furthermore, UHD is a 100% commuter campus, with nearly one in five students relying on public transportation, and almost one in three students have missed at least one class session because of transportation-related issues.”

The grant award of $943,724 over three years will fund a Basic Needs Center to provide for immediate students’ needs, build a staff to support those needs, and collect data through a case management process that connects students to comprehensive resources. The project will collect data to determine which community, campus, federal, and state resources students have accessed to help them get their basic needs met. The data will be analyzed and key performance indicator reports created that will assist the University in determining how to adjust resources and support to meet students’ greatest areas of need.

The Center will open in mid-March, but the services are already available. Visit the UHD Basic Needs web page for complete information on financial assistance, the Food for Change Market, transportation, health and wellness, housing, and domestic violence prevention.

About the University of Houston-Downtown

The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.

U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.