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Student Supports

Washington’s college students have urgent and unmet basic needs 

Many students were worried about making ends meet even before COVID-19, and we know that more people are experiencing greater need as the conditions of this pandemic persist. Recent research and public attention have highlighted that food and housing insecurity undermine persistence and completion rates for postsecondary students.

While basic needs insecurity is not new for low-income Washington students, our current public health and economic crises magnify barriers and expand the number of students who face them. These barriers include food and housing insecurity, childcare access and expenses, and mental/behavioral health. 

Disparities in basic needs security 

Low‐income, first‐generation, and marginalized student populations face terrible disparities in basic needs security. In a 2019 needs assessment of 28 of 34 Washington community and technical colleges, students of color, parenting students, former foster care, students identifying as non-binary or trans reported significantly higher rates of basic needs insecurity. Recent research shows that these vulnerable populations have been affected even more deeply through the recent crises.

WSAC’s strategic challenge 

WSAC’s role is to support postsecondary institutions and catalyze partnerships toward comprehensive and coordinated supports for students' basic needs. These include food and housing insecurity, childcare access, and behavioral health.

  • Increase understanding of the prevalence and dynamics of basic needs insecurity in postsecondary through supporting data collection and analysis.
  • Convene stakeholders to identify policy barriers, spotlight innovative partnerships, create learning exchanges, and build networks for solutions across education and community sectors.
  • Implement state legislation addressing basic needs and work with stakeholders to identify recommendations.

Get involved

WSAC is working with partners on and off campuses to learn about and strengthen supports for students. 

  1. Student Policy Consultants
  2. Homelessness Learning Community 
  3. Food security 
  4. Advisory group on supports for basic needs 

Student Consultants

Student Policy Consultants

Student Policy Consultants in 2021 will co-design and co-lead WSAC’s priority postsecondary basic needs initiatives in 2021.  They will work with WSAC staff, postsecondary and community partners to advance:

  • Development of a statewide vision and action agenda on postsecondary basic needs through convening an Advisory Taskforce
  • Development of statewide postsecondary information on unmet basic needs prevalence through convening an Assessment Workgroup
  • Student advocacy efforts in coordination with the Washington Student Association and other partners, with a focus on underrepresented students
  • Communication strategies on postsecondary basic needs
  • Learning opportunities focused on student advocacy and leadership for basic needs.

Learn more about our incredible student consultant team.

Learning Community

Homelessness Learning Community and Pilot Program

WSAC and the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges are co-organizing the Supports for Students Experiencing Homelessness Learning Community.

The learning community began in February 2020 with institutions piloting the Supports for Students Experiencing Homelessness program (2SSB 5800). It convenes learning and discussion opportunities for colleges and partners on how to improve supports for students experiencing homelessness.

Join us in learning about Supports for Students Experiencing Homelessness. Recent and upcoming Learning Community webinars are listed in the blue “Resources” box on this page.

We invite all interested institutions (including those that aren’t receiving pilot funds from 5800) to participate in learning community webinars and convenings. For more information on upcoming events and participation opportunities, contact Ami Magisos,

Learning Community Resources

Food security 

Food security

WSAC is working with partners, including DSHS, SBCTC, Anti-Hunger and Nutrition Coalition and Northwest Harvest, on strategies to increase postsecondary students’ access to food assistance.


  • EBT on Campus Webinar: DSHS experts described the application process to offer SNAP EBT on campus. (Recording) (Presentation)
  • Messaging Toolkit: WSAC and partners are developing a Food Messaging toolkit for colleges to use to inform students about food assistance opportunities. For more information, contact Ami at
  • Food Security in Washington Webinar: WSAC and partners hosted a webinar exploring postsecondary food insecurity in Washington. Highlights included strategies and tools to support students. See the recording in the webinars box on this page.


Advisory Group

Advisory Group: Supports for Basic Needs

WSAC convenes an advisory group to engage stakeholders on supports for postsecondary students’ basic needs. The goals are to identify barriers, spotlight strong practices and effective partnerships, and provide a cross-sector networking opportunity. It is an informal group open to stakeholders with expertise in student supports and public benefits.

Next meeting: May 20, 9:00 a.m.-12:00 pm. (Register Now)

For more information: 

Archived meeting materials 

October 15, 2020

  • Description: A policy-maker panel included Representative Barbara Entenman, Senator Emily Randall, Senator Claire Wilson, and Bryce McKibben of U.S. Senator Patty Murray’s office. College students and leaders engaged with agency and non-profit leaders to examine barriers and opportunities to address students’ basic needs.
  • Agenda
  • Recording

2019 Pave the Way Conference

July 2019



Learn about policy and research on supporting students’ basic needs:

2019 Legislation

2019 Legislation 

Assistance for Postsecondary Students (2S HB 1893)

WSAC partnered with Department of Social and Human Services and the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges to expand postsecondary student access to:

  • Basic Food assistance (also known as SNAP)
  • Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT)

The legislation also established an emergency assistance grant pilot in community and technical colleges.

Supports for Students Experiencing Homelessness (2SSB 5800)

This legislation established a pilot program beginning in the 2019-20 academic year to address the needs of college students experiencing homelessness or who “aged out” of foster care. It supports participation of four community and technical college districts and two public baccalaureate institutions across the state.

Pilot schools include:

  • Eastern Washington University
  • Edmonds College
  • South Puget Sound Community College
  • Walla Walla Community College
  • Western Washington University
  • Yakima Valley College


Innovative Partnerships 

Bridge to Finish Initiative, United Way of King County provides a powerful model of non-profit partnership with nine community colleges in King County to support basic needs of students through Benefits Hubs.

College Housing Assistance Program (CHAP) is a nationally renowned partnership to provide housing to college students in Tacoma through a collaboration of Tacoma Housing Authority, University of Washington-Tacoma, and Tacoma Community College.

Archived Resources

Suicide Prevention Grant

The Washington Student Achievement Council (WSAC) administered a partnership grant program that helps resource-challenged postsecondary education institutions create partnerships with health care entities to develop student suicide prevention programs.  

Completed Projects

Senate Bill 6514 authorized the program, which awarded grants to the following postsecondary education institutions in 2019. The final institutional reports are listed below: