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Student Needs During COVID-19

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This unprecedented time has impacted everyone across higher education in disruptive and critical ways. Students who were already among the most vulnerable have arguably been impacted the most.

The COVID-19 outbreak and pivot to distance learning have exposed and exacerbated socioeconomic and racial inequities, and many students are experiencing housing, food, or other forms of basic needs insecurity. While some lack the tools and resources to effectively engage in online learning, others (as much as 30% according to this LeadMN survey) have been laid off or are otherwise struggling more financially. First generation studentsDACA studentsinternational students, and others are also experiencing unique challenges that will make successful participation in higher education difficult for the foreseeable future. These challenges are posing new and heightened barriers to minoritized students’ participation, retention, and success in higher education. Fulfilling the civic mission as we prepare for the shifting realities and roles of higher education will require centering equity in our immediate response and long-term planning. 

This post offers ideas and resources on meeting students’ basic needs insecurity during COVID-19. This content has been compiled in response to our ongoing conversations with member campuses and community partners.  The following resource guide has been compiled to support students who are experiencing basic needs insecurity. It includes links to several free or reduced-price services, directories to local agencies like food banks, and guidance on accessing services like emergency aid funds. The resources should be applicable and useful to college students in Iowa and Minnesota, as well as other states. Please circulate the guide and supplement its contents with resources and support specific to your campuses and communities


Your institution may be able to either provide you with a temporary housing set up or to connect you with services and support in your home community.

  • U-Haul is offering 30 days of free self-storage at U-Haul owned and operated facilities. The offer is available to new customers who can present a student ID. Find a nearby U-Haul facility here
  • Many colleges are offering alternative housing setups to students experiencing housing insecurity as a result of dorm closures and other circumstances. Check with your institution’s housing and dining services to determine the options available to you. 
  • If you are social distancing in a home with an abusive household member or where you don’t feel safe, access help through the National Domestic Violence Hotline at any time by calling their hotline at 1-800-799-7233, visiting thehotline.org, or texting LOVEIS to 22522. 


If you are still living in your campus community, you may be able to access food pantry or other services by appointment. If you are off-campus, you can locate food banks and other resources through online directories.  

  • Some campuses are keeping their food pantries open and offering pick-up services by appointment. Other pantries are closing but working to connect students with community resources. Be sure to check what your campus is offering.
  • To find a food bank or other resources near you, enter your zip code on Aunt Bertha or call the Why Hunger hotline at 1(800) 5-HUNGRY. 
  • You may be eligible for SNAP, especially if your income and finances have been significantly affected by the outbreak. You can check your eligibility and apply for benefits in Iowa here and in Minnesota here.


You may be able to access telecare through your campus health center or through a community provider near you. Your university’s counseling services may still be available through telehealth appointments. Many campuses are offering one-on-one counseling and support group sessions. 

Emergency Aid

Many institutions have opened or expanded emergency aid funds for students in response to COVID-19. If your institution does not have a fund, you may be able to access funds through a community or other external fund. 

  • Campus-based aid: Your campus may already have an emergency aid fund in place. These funds may support costs associated with traveling home, covering grocery expenses, paying utilities, or meeting other areas of basic need. Search for your institution plus “student impact fund,” “emergency aid for students,” or “emergency grants” to check on available funding sources. 
  • Community-based aid: Many students and campus communities have organized mutual aid networks. Your home community might also have a network(s). Check with your community contacts and use social media to locate a network near you.
  • Additional funding sources: The Student Relief Fund cannot offer financial assistance directly to students, but they have offered to help connect students with local people and resources. Additionally, professors can apply for emergency funds on behalf of students through the FAST Fund. The application process has been expedited in light of COVID-19.

Student Employment

You may continue to be paid for the hours you were scheduled to work at your work-study or other on-campus job, regardless of whether you can continue working or not. 

The Federal Student Aid Office issued guidelines on work study stating that students who are unable to work due to distance learning and campus closures may continue to be paid for hours they were scheduled to work. View the full guidelines here: Guidance for interruptions of study related to Coronavirus.


Several internet providers are offering free or reduced price broadband and wi-fi access. If you do not have a computer or other requisite technology for distance learning, check with your instructors and institution. Many colleges have initiated technology lending or loaning programs, and your professors or other campus contacts may be able to connect you with the technology you need.

  • Charter communications is offering free Spectrum broadband and wi-fi access for 60 days to households with K-12 and/or college students. To enroll, call 1-844-488-8395. Installation fees will be waived for new student households. Comcast is offering two months of free internet service to new customers who apply by April 30th. This service is available only to low-income households, who can apply here
  • AT&T will not cancel service and will waive late fees for any wireless, home phone, broadband residential or small business customer who cannot pay their bills. Low-income households can additionally apply for $10 a month internet access through the Access from AT&T program. Fixed Wireless Internet and Wireline customers will have unlimited internet data, and AT&T will also maintain public Wi-Fi hotspots.
  • Internet access information from the University of Minnesota.

General resources and guides

  • Rise COVID-19 Student Survey. Rise created this survey and a resource navigation hub to support basic needs insecure students in coordination with Believe in Students and Edquity. Take this 2-minute survey to help Rise identify and meet your needs.
  • Surviving COVID-19: A #RealCollege Guide for Students: The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice created this guide for students experiencing basic needs insecurity during or because of the COVID-19 outbreak. The resources included in this guide are largely drawn from the recommendations shared in this guide and in other Hope Center materials.

Thank you to our Student-Ready Campus Task Force for their help in compiling the resources and advice included in this post!



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Seed Coalition strengthens the capacity of colleges and universities to fulfill the public purposes of higher education through its coalition of diverse college campuses in Iowa, Minnesota, and the Midwest. Our network includes rural and urban campuses, public universities and private colleges, community colleges, and trade schools.

We connect higher education professionals who work in the spaces of community and civic engagement and educate students through community and civic learning experiences. Learn about our mission and values and meet our members.

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