Health Services Launches Basic Needs Program for Students

January 26, 2024

studentsWorking toward a degree is a worthy and rewarding pursuit, but it’s a journey that also brings challenges. For some students, these challenges include a lack of access to basic needs such as food and housing. The latest National Center for Education Statistics National Postsecondary Student Aid Study confirmed that U.S. college students face greater rates of homelessness and food insecurity than the general population (Inside Higher Ed, 2023). UIW’s Health Services team is taking action to ensure that students at the Nest have access to everything they need to learn and thrive.

UIW’s new Basic Needs initiative was created to promote the well-being and academic success of students by helping to provide access to some of these essential basic needs, such as food, clothing, housing, healthcare, finances, transportation and more.

“Studies show that food insecurity and mental health have a direct impact on student retention and graduation rates,” explained Dr. Shaylon Rettig, UIW Health Services medical director. “We felt that we could make a significant impact on those areas.”

Rettig and the Health Services team got to work to address some of the basic needs required by students on campus. It was during initial discussions with the Ettling Center for Civic Leadership and Sustainability about reducing rates of food insecurity among students that they realized students had a need for more than just increased food access points.

“During those discussions, we realized that students had other challenges that impacted their success in the classroom,” Rettig recalled. “We brought together representatives from Student Life, Sports and Wellness, First Generation, Mission and Ministry, Behavioral Health, Health Services, Unified in Wellness, Athletics, International Student and Scholar Services and the health professions schools to get their input. We visited Palo Alto College to view their basic needs operations and researched services provided by other universities around the country. Through our listening, sessions we realized students were unaware of all of the available services.”

This lack of awareness of what UIW already offers its students informed step one of the Basic Needs initiative – providing a one-stop centralized website where students could find all the resources available to them. The website was shared in a mass email, along with a simple online assistance form for students to fill out allowing them to detail what their situation and needs are right from their mobile device. Once completed, the form is received by a member of the Health Services team who helps pool resources and connect the student with the department or contact best suited to assisting them.  

“We launched the program a week and a half ago and the response affirmed that our students need basic assistance, and we need to be able to support them in real time the best we can,” shared Rettig of the early days of the initiative. “We may not be able to address all their concerns, but we can listen and provide internal and external resources to the best of our abilities as well as to find creative ways to lessen the burden.”

With the program now up and running, Health Services is now envisioning how they can further expand and increase the impact it has for UIW students.

Recognizing the value of hearing from students directly, the team has recruited the help of graduate and undergraduate H-E-B School of Business and Administration students. These students will dedicate their capstone projects this semester to developing plans focused on the Basic Needs initiative’s long-term growth and sustainability.

“Our vision is to bring all these services to one location where students can get access to most of the basic needs' services in a centralized location.”

Learn more at the new UIW Basic Needs website.