Together, the University of Hawai‘i and the Stupski Foundation believe that the full college experience should be accessible and affordable to all low-income and first-generation students, particularly those attending one of UH’s seven community colleges, and ensuring students’ basic needs, including food, are met while they’re in school.
To support that goal, the Stupski Foundation has provided a total of $1.8 million to fund a diverse set of initiatives to help students navigate the financial aid process as well as connect to basic services and resources such as housing and food. The funds cover five academic years through spring 2027.
A survey conducted during the 2020-21 academic year found that two out of five UH students had experienced hunger in the prior 30 days. A recent study also found that more than one in three students don’t have enough to eat, a problem only made worse by recent high inflation. In addition, college students who were able to buy food with SNAP under pandemic boosts to the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program will lose their benefits in March.
“Our students should not have to choose between food and learning,” said UH President David Lassner. “Satisfying students’ basic needs is essential for them to be able to complete their education and thrive.”
The UH Basic Student Needs Committee two years ago launched the Student Basic Needs website to help students find the help they need, not only with buying food but also childcare, transportation, mental health services and financial aid to pay for school.
“We believe that college education should be affordable and accessible to all low-income and first-generation students, especially for those who struggle with basic needs such as food and housing,” said Cheri Souza of Stupski Foundation. “We recognize this support is critical to their persistence to stay in school and graduate, and their overall health and well-being.”
Each of the four Stupski Foundation gifts launches a specific initiative:
- Launching the Kahuaola Basic Needs Center, Hawaiʻi Community College's one-stop center that offers a comprehensive approach to providing cross-campus support and services opened on Feb. 13 at the Manono campus in Hilo. In addition to helping more students apply for financial aid, the program serves as a hub for the HINET Hoʻola Ike program, which helps students to access SNAP benefits and supplemental funds for childcare, transportation and housing, expenses that are often hurdles to staying in or completing college.
- The creation of the first ever system-wide University of Hawaiʻi Financial Assistance and Basic Needs Virtual Café (Virtual Basic Needs Café) to connect UH students to all basic needs services and resources. The initiative includes piloting a test of financial literacy programs within the Virtual Basic Needs Café, which has launched at UH Mānoa and Windward Community College and will roll out to the other eight campuses this year.
- The revision of current policies and creation of a strategic, system-wide financial aid system to remove financial barriers for UH Community College students. The goal is to help students complete financial aid applications, and to establish a new strategy for awarding financial aid at the seven community college campuses.
- The CARE Package Program at Kauaʻi Community College aims to educate and empower our students with the information and supportive services needed to increase college affordability and individual resiliency. Kauaʻi CC’s vision for system’s change is a model which integrates financial aid practices into the work of our human needs program and looks to address the true cost of college attendance on our island while building trust in the financial aid application process for families unfamiliar with the financial aid/ FAFSA process.
The Stupski Foundation was among the supporters who together gave more than $1 million in early 2020 to help UH students impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The Stupski Foundation really understands how difficult it can be for college students to have access to food and financial aid so they can stay in school and graduate,” said Tim Dolan, UH vice president of advancement and UH Foundation CEO. “We’re grateful they have made basic needs for UH students a priority.”
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The University of Hawai‘i Foundation, a nonprofit organization, raises private funds to support the University of Hawai‘i System. The mission of the University of Hawai‘i Foundation is to unite donors’ passions with the University of Hawai‘i’s aspirations by raising philanthropic support and managing private investments to benefit UH, the people of Hawai‘i and our future generations. uhfoundation.org