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Project to identify how HSIs can assess basic needs, foster student success

Project to identify how HSIs can assess basic needs, foster student success

MARCH 4, 2020 — UTSA is collaborating with San Antonio College on a project to build a statewide network of Hispanic Serving Institutions to understand basic needs initiatives contribution to student success. 

The project is part of the ECMC Foundation’s Basic Needs Initiative. The initiative is a first-of-its-kind effort in postsecondary education for basic needs security among students to promote strong academic performance, persistence, well-being and graduation. 

The UTSA-SAC partnership is one of seven organizations that received grants from the ECMC Foundation totaling $3.1 million over three years to address nonacademic issues such as food and housing security, child care, mental health, financial assistance and transportation. 


The initiative is a first-of-its-kind effort in postsecondary education for basic needs security among students.



“The overarching goal of this collaborative project is to build capacity and understand the landscape of BNIs in HSIs in the state of Texas. Concerted efforts will be made to link BNIs to student success,” said Thankam Sunil, professor of public health and director of UTSA’s Institute for Health Disparities Research. 

The UTSA-SAC project, titled “Linking Basic Needs Initiatives to Student Success: Building Evidence-Based Practice in Hispanic-Serving Institutions in Texas,” received a $313,000 grant and will consist of three phases that will run over the course of 2.5 years. 

During phase one, SAC and UTSA researchers will conduct interviews with administrators at Texas HSIs. The first phase includes the identification of institutional implementation and assessment of student success practices and outcome measures, such as persistence and completion. HSIs are defined as schools that have a 25% or higher Hispanic full-time undergraduate student population.

The second phase will increase institutional capacity to engage in a robust monitoring and evaluation of the Basic Needs Initiatives achieved through individualized consultation. The third phase will build a statewide network of colleges and universities to support the advancement of evidence-based BNIs to improve student success.

“This grant represents an opportunity to examine the relationship between the BNIs and student success and to amplify the capacity to better serve our students,” said Lisa Zottarelli, associate professor of sociology at San Antonio College. “[We’re] building upon a statewide network of leaders, building this capacity, so we can engage in evidence-based practice and understanding how BNIs are related to student success.”

Xiaohe Xu, professor and chair of UTSA’s Department of Sociology, added, “This project is important because as a Hispanic Serving Institution, we have a great number of students that are likely to be socioeconomically disadvantaged that could greatly benefit from its results.”

ECMC’s Foundation Basic Needs Initiative was created in response to research from the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice, California State University, MDRC and the National Bureau of Economic Research, among others. The research found that basic needs insecurity is prevalent among students at two- and four-year campuses and impacts students’ persistence and graduation outcomes.

Ingrid Wright



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UTSA’s Mission

The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.

UTSA’s Vision

To be a premier public research university, providing access to educational excellence and preparing citizen leaders for the global environment.

UTSA’s Core Values

We encourage an environment of dialogue and discovery, where integrity, excellence, inclusiveness, respect, collaboration and innovation are fostered.

UTSA’S Destinations

UTSA is a proud Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) as designated by the U.S. Department of Education.

Our Commitment to Inclusivity

The University of Texas at San Antonio, a Hispanic Serving Institution situated in a global city that has been a crossroads of peoples and cultures for centuries, values diversity and inclusion in all aspects of university life. As an institution expressly founded to advance the education of Mexican Americans and other underserved communities, our university is committed to ending generations of discrimination and inequity. UTSA, a premier public research university, fosters academic excellence through a community of dialogue, discovery and innovation that embraces the uniqueness of each voice.