March 7, 2019

San Diego Mesa College President Pamela Luster Leads Efforts to Address Student Food and Housing Insecurity

By Jennifer N. Kearns

California Community Colleges #RealCollege Survey

San Diego Mesa College President Dr. Pamela Luster will visit Sacramento today to discuss the importance of addressing community college students’ basic needs such as food and housing insecurities and homelessness. The data presented by Dr. Luster is from The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice #RealCollege Survey for California Community Colleges. Dr. Luster co-chairs the Affordability Food and Housing Access Task Force that has made multiple recommendations towards addressing student needs.


Across California, concerns about college costs and affordability are widespread. Most research identifies community college students as a population particularly impacted by unaffordable college costs. Unfortunately, 7 in 10 students have experienced food insecurity, housing insecurity or homelessness in the previous year. Therefore, college leaders came together to collaborate around best practices, remove policy barriers, and to establish effective partnerships.


“In the fall of 2017, 44% of Mesa College students experience food insecurity, 46% experience housing insecurity, and 15% report as homeless,” stated Dr. Luster. “In the fall of 2018, those numbers increased to 47% being food insecure, 62% are housing insecure, and 18% reporting as homeless. Clearly, there is a need to address the basic needs of our students.”


San Diego Mesa College, via Student Success and Equity, offers multiple on-campus services to address student needs including a food and clothing pantry called The Stand, which opened in February of 2017. The Stand offers free shelf stable food as well as professional clothing. In conjunction with Feeding San Diego, Mesa College also offers a monthly Farmers Market where students can get free fresh food.  In addition to services for students, Mesa College provides multiple professional development opportunities for faculty and staff to engage them in ways to support students’ basic needs.


Dr. Luster is a founding member and co-chair of the Affordability Food and Housing Access Task Force, along with Dr. Keith Curry, President of Compton College. The #RealCollege Survey highlights the need for financial aid reform at the community college level, one of the recommendations put forward by the Community College League of California’s Affordability, Food & Housing Access Taskforce. The Taskforce is supporting Senate Bill 291 introduced by state Sen. Connie M. Levya (D-Chino), a bill sponsored by the California Community College Board of Governors and co-sponsored by the Community College League of California. SB 291 would establish a California Community College Student Financial Aid program that would base aid on the total cost of attendance, including housing, transportation and textbooks.


Because of this work, San Diego Mesa College plans to expand its commitment to be “the leading college of equity and excellence” by opening a Resource and Advocacy Center on campus that will co-locate campus and community resources to assist students in meeting their basic needs. The center will provide support for students so they can connect with local, county and state resources, including access to emergency funding.

In a joint statement by Affordability, Food & Housing Access Taskforce chairs Pamela Luster, President of San Diego Mesa College and Keith Curry, President of Compton College said, “We are proud to collaborate with college leaders statewide who are proactively engaged in discussions and interventions to alleviate the basic needs insecurities that affect our students. Our work is far from over, but as a coalition, we know we can find real solutions.”


During the briefing, the Affordability, Food & Housing Access Taskforce will also announce the launch of the #RealCollegeCalifornia network. The inaugural #RealCollegeCalifornia will serve as a coalition of colleges that share best practices focused on meeting students’ basic needs, which will receive strategic planning support from the Hope Center.


Learn more about the work of the Community College League of California Affordability, Food & Housing Taskforce at  To read the full report visit:

Tags: The Stand, #RealCollegeCalifornia, President Pam, homelessness