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New York’s Higher Education Basic Needs Coalition Commends Historic SUNY Investments in Student Mental Health, Housing Security, and Anti-Hunger

June 2, 2023
Contact: Emma Bittner
(972) 510-3395 |

New York’s Higher Education Basic Needs Coalition Commends Historic SUNY Investments in Student Mental Health, Housing Security, and Anti-Hunger

(New York City, New York) – This week, SUNY Chancellor John King Jr. spoke at the SUNY State of the University Address, sharing historic new support services to address housing insecurity and homelessness, food insecurity and hunger, and the mental health crisis among college students. SUNY is the nation’s largest state university system, serving more than 350,000 students in 2022, most of which are from New York’s working-class families.

The New York State’s Higher Education Basic Needs Coalition, led by Young Invincibles, consists of various stakeholders – including New York elected officials, school representatives, and state and national organizations dedicated to addressing young adults’ mental health, housing, and hunger needs. Other coalition member organizations include Swipe Out Hunger, SchoolHouse Connection, Big Picture Learning, Neighborhood Coalition for Shelter, Covenant House, The Jed Foundation, Active Minds, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, New York Communities for Change, and others. 

Expanding access to vital supports for basic needs is particularly relevant at New York’s public universities and community colleges, which serve hundreds of thousands of students from low- to moderate-income communities each year. Many of these students, which the coalition works with and represents, are first-generation college students, immigrants, parenting students, and from working-class families. Consequently, finding a college with adequate resources and capacity to support students from low- and moderate-income communities while they complete their degree has been an ongoing issue. Historic and current barriers of inequity, economic inequality, and racial disparity in the collegiate system continue to prevent students from pursuing higher education. Creating equitable systems and programs to support these students is essential.

The supports outlined by Chancellor King are a step in the right direction to address inequities on campus and basic needs imperative for students. The coalition was thrilled to hear of these new investments, including the creation of a housing liaison position at all SUNY campuses, an allocation of $10 million to expand mental health counseling, a new SUNY budget line of $1 million for establishing and improving food pantries, and immensely streamlining SNAP enrollment at all 64 SUNY campuses. These policies are essential to the success of SUNY students across the state and set the standard for addressing all students’ basic needs.

In response, Sean Miller, Northeast Regional Director at Young Invincibles said:

“Addressing the well-being and basic needs of college students is non-negotiable. Every day thousands of students at our schools struggle to afford to eat, pay rent, and get the mental health support they need while attending classes, paying tuition and fees, and often working at least a part-time job. The investments outlined today by Chancellor John King aim to combat these issues directly and will support millions of future SUNY students.
With the newly allocated $10 million for mental health, many campuses will be able to hire more counselors and better address the widespread youth mental health crisis. Additionally, we are thrilled about the creation of a housing liaison on each campus, per legislation that we drafted with guidance from SchoolHouse Connection, a national leader in addressing youth homelessness and housing insecurity (NY A04029/S4247, sponsored by Assemblywoman Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas and Senator Andrew Gounardes). This shows that SUNY is listening to our brave student advocates and their greatest needs. Creating a specific budget line of $1 million to improve SUNY’s food pantries and streamline SNAP enrollment also removes unnecessary administrative and emotional burdens for students dealing with hunger and food insecurity. These policies are critical in allowing students to thrive and focus on their education rather than where their next meal will come from or how to afford rent.

Young Invincibles applauds Chancellor King and SUNY for their dedication to prioritizing students’ essential needs. These policies are major wins for Young Invincibles and the thousands of New York college students we represent, as they demonstrate a fundamental understanding of our public college students’ demands. This new funding creates a historic precedent for prioritizing the ‘whole student,’ building community schools, and financing life-saving supports through the university’s annual operating budget. We will continue our unwavering fight for more needed expansions in affordable and accessible higher education, affordable housing, food security, mental health, and a seat at the table for all young adults.”


Joshua Poyer, Director of Youth Voice at Big Picture Learning said:

“As a graduate of New York’s public college education system, I commend Chancellor King and SUNY for doing what is not only necessary, but what is right. This is not a finish line, but rather a starting point. I urge all leaders of academic institutions to take a similar stand to ensure that every student has their basic needs met so that they have the opportunity to reach their full potential.”

Ann Shalof, CEO of Neighborhood Coalition for Shelter said:

“Housing insecurity presents overwhelming obstacles to students’ success. We applaud Chancellor King’s commitment to ensuring that students experiencing homelessness can complete their degrees and thrive. Too often, these students are hiding in plain sight. Designating Homeless Liaisons on every SUNY campus is a critical first step to ensuring that these students are housed and supported.”

Robb Friedlander, Director of Advocacy at Swipe Out Hunger said:

“Chancellor King and the SUNY system have taken a significant step in addressing student hunger and basic needs in New York. While we commend this initial progress, we urge Chancellor King and the SUNY system to efficiently distribute funds to campus pantries and basic needs centers, ensuring every SUNY student is supported. Additionally, a continued lack of investment by Gov. Hochul and leaders in Albany have left tens of thousands of CUNY students without the essential services they need to thrive. This inequality will continue to widen the economic gap between our city and state, increasing the urgency for our state leaders to address the funding crisis at CUNY.”

Senator Andrew Gounardes said:

“Making the transition from high school to college is difficult for many students as it is — but when students are having to juggle homelessness, food scarcity, classes, and often a job, it can become downright impossible. I applaud the steps Chancellor King is taking to ensure students at SUNY campuses across the state can have their basic needs supported with this new initiative, and I welcome the creation of a housing liaison on each campus, as Assemblymember Gonzalez-Rojas and I called for in our bill to address this issue.” 

Barbara Duffield, Executive Director at SchoolHouse Connection said:

“SchoolHouse Connection applauds today’s commitments, and in particular the designation of homeless liaisons. Similar to their counterparts in K-12 education, homeless higher education liaisons support students who experience homelessness by connecting them to available resources on and off-campus, and removing barriers to their college retention and success. We are thrilled to support this effort through the Campus Homeless Liaison Learning Network” 


Young Invincibles (YI) is a national advocacy and policy nonprofit organization focused on amplifying the voice of young people in the political process at the local, state, and federal levels. YI focuses on issues impacting young adults ages 18 to 34 in higher education, health care, economic security, and civic engagement. Our offices include Washington, D.C., California, Colorado, Illinois, New York, and Texas. For more information, please contact Emma Bittner at (972) 510-3395 or