Basic needs insecurity among college students is complex. Rarely do students experience a single hardship. In a recent analysis of emergency aid applications, Edquity found that 51% of students cited transportation as an area where they are struggling. The December 2021 analysis was of more than 135,000 student applications for emergency aid within the Edquity application. With 87% of all first-year students living off campus, the need for reliable transportation is inextricably linked to student persistence and success for the vast majority of students.
Among community college students, the need for reliable transportation is even greater. The SHSF Public Transit Map shares that while 99% of community college students live off-campus, only 57% of main community and technical colleges have public transportation stops within walking distance to campus. Moreover, the average community college student spends $1,840 per year in transit/commuting costs.
A recent Hechinger Report shed further light on this often underrepresented need category, highlighting how barriers to academic success are oftentimes logistical. Ways transportation poses a barrier to students include cost, distance to stops and stations, lack of availability of routes that sync with college schedules, and unreliability, according to a study by the Kresge Foundation.
"There are impediments to college completion; by and large these impediments are financial by nature," said David Helene, Founder and CEO of Edquity. "Whether it is housing, transportation or food insecurity, these are basic needs that are not being met for millions of college students."
These are services that are not traditionally under the purview of higher education, however it is clear that they impact student persistence and needs security. To combat transportation barriers, colleges and universities can consider providing students with free metro cards, or partnering with local public transportation to arrange free rides for enrolled students. In more rural areas, university-provided vans could be the key to greater persistence.