Skip to main content

New Student Basic Needs Task Force Created to Support Michigan's Low-Income College Students

MiLEAP convenes local, regional and state leaders to explore how insecurity with basic needs is affecting Michigan's college students and make recommendations to improve student success

Today, the Michigan Department of Lifelong Education, Advancement, and Potential (MiLEAP) announced that it has assembled a task force to better understand how insecurity with basic needs is affecting Michigan's college students and what actions position students for success. The task force will look at how issues differ across regions and campuses, what interventions are helping, and identify policy change so that financial insecurity is not a barrier to student’s pursuit of educational goals, including completion of a degree or credential.

“Across Michigan, we’ve made it possible for students to pursue a degree at a college or university without breaking the bank,” said Lt. Governor Gilchrist II. “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. 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.’”

More than ever, postsecondary education is critical to economic mobility. Jobs requiring skilled employees today, as well as jobs on the horizon, demand greater 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 skill certificate or degree," said Michelle Richard, Acting Director of MiLEAP. "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 Temple University’s The Hope Center for Student Basic Needs to create the task force, with The Hope Center being hired, through funding from the Joyce Foundation, to be the research and facilitation partner.

“We know that postsecondary education leads to better jobs and higher wages,” said Michigan Community College Association President Brandy Johnson. “We are excited to see the Basic Needs Task Force identify what is working for Michigan students and what we can improve upon to make sure each student can be successful and reach their full potential.”

“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 Dr. Sara Abelson, assistant professor and senior director of Education and Training Services at Temple University’s The Hope Center for Student Basic Needs. “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 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.”

Over the course of a year Task Force members are being asked to participate in four meetings where they 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 dramatically reduce barriers for college students through enhanced supports for students in need and identify needed adaptions for Michigan.
  • Contribute to a report for the state on recommendations for intervention and policy opportunities.

The leaders that have joined the Task Force are:

  • Duane Bedell, President, Bay Mills Community College
  • Lina Blair, Dean of Student Life, Ferris State University
  • Lisa Brewer-Walraven, Director, Office of Child Development and Care, Michigan Department of Lifelong Education, Advancement, and Potential
  • Dr. Charles Cotton, Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management, Western Michigan University
  • Tracye Y. Davis, Executive Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging, Henry Ford College, Assistant Director Performance, Development, and Engagement (Human Resources)
  • Sarah Desmarais, Senior Advisor of Economic Stability Operations and Programs, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services,
  • Dr. Darryl Gardner, Assistant Vice President for Student Success, Wayne State University
  • Wytrice Harris, Senior Director, College Success and Partnerships, Detroit Regional Chamber
  • Dr. Charles Lepper, President, Grand Rapids Community College
  • Jessica Robinson, Digital Inclusion Manager, Michigan High-Speed Internet Office
  • Coco Moulder, Executive Director, Pontiac Promise Zone
  • Joe Saur, Education Analyst, Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency, Michigan Department of Military and Veteran Affairs
  • Jacob J. Schuler, Assistant Dean of Student Life & Residential Experience, The University of Olivet   
  • Bob Sheehan, Chief Executive Officer, Community Mental Health Association of Michigan
  • Alejandra Solorzano, Michigan Engagement Manager, Benefits Data Trust
  • Megan Spitz, Senior Community Development Specialist, Office of Housing Strategies, Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA)

Learn more about MiLEAP and the Office of Sixty by 30 at

Media Contact: