Glass Buildings

Basic Needs

Basic needs have and continue to be a pervasive issue on campus. While the university has taken a step in the right direction by engaging in consultations with students on advocacy items, not having enough access to basic needs is yet another pandemic that plagues the University. One way in which we aim to address this issue is to advocate for the re-authorization of the Higher Education Act of 1965, which is one of the most comprehensive pieces of legislation that has the capacity to support students nationwide. We will strive to continue in that pursuit to ensure that more funding is available for students via Pell Grants and Financial Aid programs to combat issues such as housing insecurity, food insecurity, tuition spikes, unreasonably low student wages, and navigating the dangers related to COVID-19.

1. Housing insecurity​

According to the College Student Health Survey in 2018, almost half of undergraduate students on the Twin Cities campus worry about their ability to pay for housing. Even if students are able to afford housing, we often run into legal problems with our leases. In the past, those of us on the Basic Needs Task Force within MSA has worked on initiatives like Break-up-with-your-landlord and the increased assistance from student legal services to review legal jargon on leases. However, housing insecurity is very much still an issue on campus, especially since the start of COVID-19. To remedy these effects, we plan to implement the following initiatives:

  • Collaborate with local neighborhood associations and city council members to advocate for the development of financially accessible housing within or near campus

  • Continue in our pursuit to work with legislators to address unethical landlord practices to protect students’ right to housing

  • Review covenants in areas where UMN students are living like Dinkytown and Marcy-Holmes

  • Better support students struggling with addiction or in addiction recovery with housing

  • Push for greater transparency in cleaning/hygiene procedures in universities housing

  • Require a minimum amount of empty rooms in university housing to allow adjustment to living situations

2. Food Insecurity 

According to the College Student Health Survey in 2018, nearly one in five students on campus worry about whether they have already run out of food or will soon run out of food before they have the means to buy more. While MSA and the university have taken many measures in order to combat food insecurity by implementing initiatives such as funding the mobile markets on campus and changing the eligibility requirements of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), we are still living in a food desert. Additionally, students are not making enough money to meet their basic needs. We need to ensure that these students have access to the resources that they need in order to maintain their quality of life by advocating for the following initiatives: 

  • Bring back the Farmer’s Market on campus

  • Expand food truck presence on campus by expanding permit eligibility to ensure student access to food while supporting local vendors

  • Ensure accessible dining hours at university dining halls

  • Making sure that dining hall food is correctly labeled and is compliant with dietary restrictions.

  • Continue to advocate for the establishment of a university food coop on campus

3. Tuition

Based on conversations on the Board of Regents level, tuition will most likely increase for the next academic year by approximately 1%. While the university cites increased inflation as a cause for this increase, they need to realize the rising costs of tuition directly contributes to student food and housing insecurity, forcing many of us to choose between rent, books, food, and other basic needs. Something needs to be done to ensure that students are getting the support that we need. We will start to address tuition spikes through these policy changes:

  • Demand at the Board of Regents level to freeze tuition

  • Pursue and expand upon current efforts to increase state-subsidized tuition through state grants at the legislative level

4. Wages and University Costs

One of the key reasons that students experience struggles in obtaining basic needs is that, too often, we only get paid about 75% of Minneapolis’ minimum wage of $15/hour. As inflation rates rise, the cost of living increases as well. Students as well as our campus staff need to be paid more. To ensure this, we will advocate for the following:

  • Continue advocating for increased student wages so that we have enough to live on

  • Work with Parking & Transportation Services to decrease student parking fees

  • Push for increased wages for faculty in need to ensure higher quality classes and higher faculty retention rates

  • Pushing for better security and working conditions for other staff on campus, including janitorial staff and dining hall workers.

5. Covid-19

The entire world has been significantly impacted by COVID-19 for the past couple years. We have experienced alpha, beta, delta, omicron, and many other variants as a community. Unfortunately, the reality is that COVID-19 will continue to plague the world. We, as a university, need to set more clear guidelines and regulations as to how we plan to combat this pandemic, especially since the university is considering lifting the mask mandate. While we will leave that decision to the medical professionals, it is still important for students to be actively consulting with the university on the following:

  • Ensure that COVID-19 at-home tests are available to students both in sufficient quantity and price

  • Consult extensively with the university as the new year's policies surrounding COVID-19 regulations are determined to ensure full student involvement during this process