For “Jane,” who requested anonymity, attending college while balancing parenting and employment is a challenge.

“As a dedicated single mom of three, navigating my full-time college journey at San Diego State University has been a remarkable, yet challenging experience,” she says. “Financial hardships often loomed large, making it tough to balance my family’s needs with my educational aspirations.”

She notes that the high cost of tuition, textbooks and other academic materials place a significant financial burden on her. Even with financial aid and scholarships, she must work part-time, which divides her time and focus between her job and her studies.

‘Glimmer of Hope’

But a grant from the Basic Needs Center at San Diego State University is giving her budget much-needed relief.

“With the arrival of the grant, a glimmer of hope emerged,” she says. “This grant significantly reduced the financial stress that had weighed heavily on me. It eased the burden of tuition fees, textbooks and educational expenses, allowing me to direct more of my energy toward my studies.”

Her Basic Needs Center grant is a result of Basic Needs & College Success Grants awarded by San Diego Foundation in 2022.

Addressing Basic Needs

Basic needs include access to food and housing, technology resources and internet access, and mental and behavioral health care.

In the most comprehensive study of basic needs and college student success by California State University, research shows that college students cannot adequately focus on learning if they’re struggling with meeting their basic needs, which results in lower GPAs, continuation rates and graduation rates. California’s high cost of living, the COVID-19 pandemic and recent inflation have left college students increasingly experiencing food and housing insecurity, and depression and anxiety.

“The financial challenges I faced not only affected my academic success but also took a toll on my emotional well-being,” Jane shares. “The constant stress and anxiety led me to question my pursuit of higher education, even though I knew it was essential for my family’s better future.”

Student with a meal

Through the SDF Basic Needs & College Success Grants, 10 local nonprofits were able to support approximately 34,000 local college students. In addition to emergency grants, nonprofits offer food resources, like on-campus food pantries and free farmers markets; free laptops for check out; emergency shelter vouchers; and access to behavioral and mental health counseling and resources.

“I’m here at the farmers market because it really helps me truly pursue community college without worrying about any barriers that I may have to food insecurity,” shared a MiraCosta College student attending a Feeding San Diego event at their campus. “Things like this, their work really does help people like us to truly thrive in the community. It supports our careers, our school… it’s really, really great what they’re doing out there.”

Changing Lives

The lives changed by these grants aren’t limited to the students. Their families also benefit.

For example, there’s 25-year-old Katy, a business major who transferred to California State University Chico from Grossmont College. While Katy is committed to achieving her education and career goals, it’s proven a challenge at times as a single mom to an elementary-aged daughter.

As a former foster youth, she is in Promises2Kids’ Guardian Scholar program. There, she embraces change and flourishes under the mentorship and guidance of her Guardian Scholars team, facing challenges and achieving goals as both a parent and a transition-age foster youth. Katy knows that this circle of support is instrumental to her ability to keep moving forward on her successful life journey.

Katy saw the opportunity to change that and in her words, “not become a statistic.” With her commitment and fortitude, she will accomplish that not just for herself, but also for her daughter.

Learn more about how the SDF Education Initiative supports K-12 and higher education programs to extend opportunity to San Diego students as they prepare for success in life and work.