Since 1858, the LCU Fund for Women’s Education (LCU Fund) has been helping women scholars secure safe, affordable housing in New York City. Since 2001, this has taken the shape of a grantmaking program that supports scholars of limited financial means by helping them pay their rent. The LCU Fund supports students majoring in the arts, education, social work, public administration, religious leadership, criminal justice, and health care, all of which have the potential to lead to socially responsible careers. In close to two decades, the LCU fund has awarded over $16M in housing grants to 3,000 students at 35 undergraduate and graduate educational institutions. Alleviating the worry about the cost of housing enables scholars to focus on degree completion. On average, an LCU Fund grant covers 47% of a student’s housing costs for the year.
Why Women Scholars?
College completion is critical to women’s economic mobility. Women with a college degree are more likely to be employed, have an increased income, and be financially stable than women without degrees. LCU Fund research shows that our scholars spend almost half of their monthly income on housing, which makes them cost-burdened.4 Students at least in their third year in college – the undergraduate population that the LCU Fund supports – experienced higher rates of housing insecurity than first-year students. Furthermore, working during college was not associated with lower basic needs insecurity. Despite the fact that majority of women scholars with limited financial means work to support themselves, they continue to experience economic insecurity. Addressing the gaps in costs of living for women scholars is a pathway to breaking the poverty cycle.
But there are considerable barriers to earning that college degree. From the outset, female scholars from low- and middle-income households face an uphill struggle: They are less likely to have family assistance with tuition costs, and more likely to have other commitments, such as a part-time job or family caretaking role, in addition to classes.
For low-income scholars, housing insecurity negatively impacts educational outcomes. Housing insecurity and houselessness have a statistically significant relationship with college completion rates, persistence, and credit attainment. Even if tuition is fully or partially covered by scholarships, the student is still responsible for their own room and board. While majority of scholars state their top reason for pursuing higher education is to better support themselves and their families, the gaps in comprehensive financial support for the cost of living expenses related to higher education create critical barriers for scholars’ academic success and long-term economic stability.
When the cost of New York City housing is factored in, some lower-income scholars — or even middle-income scholars — are forced to give up their hopes of higher education altogether.
In recent years, the LCU Fund’s Board of Directors has asked the question central to this inquiry: what more? We wanted to know what the LCU Fund, in partnership with educational institutions and other foundations, could do differently or better to meet the needs of students and alumnae. In other words, how could the LCU Fund maximize the impact of its philanthropic investments by aligning more closely with the students it supports?
Recently the LCU Fund collected survey data from students and alumnae who have received LCU Fund support. Questions touched on themes of educational attainment, employment, income, expenses/affordability, unmet needs, and community engagement.
Read the full “What More?” survey report:
The #RealCollege survey is the nation’s largest annual assessment of basic needs security among college students. The survey, created by the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice (Hope Center), specifically evaluates access to affordable food and housing. This report describes the results of the #RealCollege survey administered in the fall of 2018 at 123 two- and four-year institutions across the United States.
Rates of basic needs insecurity are higher for students attending two-year colleges compared to those attending four-year colleges. Rates of basic needs insecurity are higher for marginalized students, including African Americans, students identifying as LGBTQ, and students who are independent from their parents or guardians for financial aid purposes. Students who have served in the military, former foster youth, and students who were formerly convicted of a crime are all at greater risk of basic needs insecurity. Working during college is not associated with a lower risk of basic needs insecurity, and neither is receiving the federal Pell Grant; the latter is in fact associated with higher rates of basic needs insecurity.
Read the full #RealCollege survey: