Source: Daily Breeze
California State Dominguez Hills students discussed food insecurity and uncertain living situations, among other critical issues relating to college students, with a high-ranking federal education official on Thursday, April 7.
U.S. Education Under Secretary James Kvaal visited the campus to hear from a small group of students about the federal programs that work – and don’t work – to support them throughout their collegiate careers.
“Dominguez Hills is known nationally for being one of the universities that does the best job at enrolling students from all backgrounds and helping them move up,” Kvaal said in the Loker Student Union. “We’re trying very hard at figuring out what works here in the Cal State system, and how we can invest in that and help other colleges do similar things.”
Dominguez Hills, near Carson, has the highest rate of underrepresented student groups among the 23 Cal State University campuses, according to a CSUDH press release: Black, Latino and Native American students comprise 78.8% of the overall Dominguez Hills.
First-generation college students comprise nearly half of CSUDH’s total population. Two-thirds of students qualify as lower income.
Many of those students face barriers to their education, largely relating to housing and food insecurity, said the school’s CalFresh outreach coordinator, Carolyn Tinoco.
“There are disparities for our students who are first generation or students of color,” Tinoco said. “They get in but can’t afford their way through.”
CalFresh – part of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – provides low-income students with a steady source of nutritious food. Two-thirds of Dominguez Hills students do not have a reliable food source, according to a 2019 CSUDH Basic Needs Assessment report.
A pandemic-era federal mandate reduced the expected family contribution of CalFresh-qualified students to $0, Tinoco said, meaning virtually any student could access food benefits if necessary.
“It would be really great if that could continue on because that helps our students,” she told Kvaal, noting that graduate students weren’t previously eligible to receive CalFresh benefits. “And it’s been really hard to help those students out.”
The Department of Education will look into making that change permanent, Kvaal said, adding that the program “can make a big difference for students.”
The Kvaal’s visit came just weeks after Reps. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, and Nanette Diaz Barragán, D-San Pedro, visited the campus to discuss their new education bill, which also intends to reduce food insecurity among students.
“It’s really important that we hear from the voices of the people that we’re trying to help and the challenges you face,” Kvaal said. “This time has been really valuable for me.”