Tracye Y. Davis joins MiLEAP Student Basic Needs Task Force

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Headshot of Tracye Davis

HFC Executive Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) Tracye Y. Davis has joined the Michigan Department of Lifelong Education, Advancement, and Potential (MiLEAP) Student Basic Needs Task Force.

Davis is one of 16 leaders from colleges and universities, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations across Michigan to join the task force. The purpose of the task force is to better understand how insecurity regarding basic needs affects Michigan's college students, and what can actions position students for success.

“The members of the task force hold leadership positions in several different areas, so the representatives are not a monolith. This is a cross section of thought leaders who bring crucial perspectives and who can see things in a different light. One of the major things to come out of this is that we are very aware of food and housing insecurities, and health and wellness issues. Yet, there are also less obvious or less tangible issues that can also contribute to a student being successful,” explained Davis. “At the community college level, and as a commuter campus, our students are not going back to their dorm rooms. They are returning every night to jobs, childcare and elder care responsibilities, and so much more that they are attempting to balance along with school. Being on this task force allows me to ask the question: How can we make it easier for our students to succeed? Even more, we are asking the question: What have we not considered that may be a contributing factor?”

Looking to remove barriers to ensure every student can "make it in Michigan"

“Across Michigan, we’ve made it possible for students to pursue a degree at a college or university without breaking the bank. Through the Michigan Reconnect program and Michigan Achievement scholarships, we’ve lowered the costs of college by up to $27,500, which means more students can go to school without having tuition costs as a barrier,” said Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II. “But we also know that there are other needs associated with college, like housing, books, meals, and more that can be a burden. With the Student Basic Needs Task Force, we are looking at ways to remove barriers to attending college from all angles to ensure every Michigan student can complete a degree or credential and ultimately ‘make it in Michigan.’”

The task force will consider ways that issues differ across regions and campuses in the state, what kinds of interventions are helping, and will identify policy changes so that financial insecurity and other basic needs are not a barrier to a student’s pursuit of educational goals.

“We have students who sleep on their friends’ or a family member’s couches for a night because they don’t have a home. That makes it hard to concentrate on their studies. Access to a stable living situation is compromised, and this type of housing insecurity is different from what we typically think of as being homeless,” said Davis . “Almost all our populations have intersectional issues. We need to consider the needs of students who are queer, trans, neurodiverse, English language learners, have disabilities, require emotional support, experience digital divides, etc. If we cannot pinpoint the root causes of the issues affecting students’ ability to enroll or address their perceived need to drop out, we will not hit the Sixty by 30 goal."

Ecosystems of support rather than one-time help

Postsecondary education is critical to economic mobility. Jobs requiring skilled employees today and tomorrow demand expertise and skill that comes from education and training. Increasingly, the best jobs require more than a high school diploma.

“It has never been more crucial for Michigan students to earn a certificate or degree," said MiLEAP Acting Director Michelle Richard. "We’ve made progress on lowering costs, and now we need to double down on efforts to improve student success. The Student Basic Needs Task Force will identify actionable recommendations to remove these barriers and help more Michiganders achieve their educational goals. By addressing issues such as food insecurity, housing instability, and lack of access to essential resources, we are paving the way for greater student persistence and success in our state.”

MiLEAP partnered with the Michigan Community College Association and The Hope Center for Student Basic Needs at Temple University in Philadelphia to create the task force through funding by the Joyce Foundation in Chicago. The Hope Center will be the research and facilitation partner.

“Three in five college students do not have enough to eat or a stable place to live, and millions of students experience basic needs insecurity,” said The Hope Center Senior Director for Education and Training Services Dr. Sara Abelson. “Here at The Hope Center, we are changing that unjust status quo by creating ecosystems of support for students. We need all hands-on deck and we applaud the Office of Sixty by 30 and the State of Michigan for assembling a task force of advocates and experts to explore how basic needs insecurity is affecting Michigan's college students. We are thrilled to help lead this collaborative effort to identify what can be done to remove these barriers, so more students succeed.”

One-year timeline

The task force has been commissioned for one year and will meet four times in-person. It will share its findings and discuss ideas. Specifically, the task force will:

  • Develop, review, and recommend policies and actions in the areas of food insecurity, housing insecurities, health and wellness, and digital equity.
  • Review research on basic needs and ensure recommendations meet state needs in urban and rural settings and across different types of populations and identify gaps and solutions in the higher education ecosystem that the state can learn from.
  • Review approaches taken in other states to reduce barriers for college students through enhanced supports, and recommend implementable adaptions for Michigan.
  • Contribute to a report for the state on recommendations for intervention and policy opportunities.

“In the upcoming weeks, I will present to HFC leaders and our frontline team members the task force’s initial findings. I'll seek their input and discuss how the work directly relates to the HFC Strategic Plan,” said Davis. “Our goal is to be proactive. For example, what do we need to do at the K-12 level to prepare students for college? By the time they come to us, even if all their concerns haven’t been resolved, at least we will have acknowledged and addressed them, which is a great first start to brainstorming solutions that work. Even though different walks of life are represented on this task force, we are united in wanting all Michigan college students to be successful and to reach their full potential.”