Shapiro Administration Launches Anti-Stigma Campaign To Support College Students’ Basic Needs (April 7, 2024)

On April 5, 2024, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) launched a new anti-stigma campaign to support postsecondary students struggling to meet basic needs such as housing, transportation, financial needs, and physical and mental health.

Through the PA MASLOW “You Good?” campaign, PDE developed posters that colleges and universities can personalize, print, and post on their campuses directing students to critical resources. Additionally, PDE has been convening student panel discussions around the state as proactive way to inform the anti-stigma campaign as well as the programs and policies that postsecondary institutions are implementing. Through quarterly virtual meetings, the department has been engaging with the field on ways to expand upon and improve anti-stigma efforts.

This effort to promote wellness, safety, and belonging at postsecondary institutions complements Governor Josh Shapiro’s recently announced blueprint for higher education—a plan that dramatically increases funding for state colleges and universities, unites them under a new governance structure, and caps tuition costs for income eligible students to ensure a higher education is affordable for all. Gov. Shapiro’s 2024-25 budget proposal invests $975 million in the community colleges and PASSHE universities that will comprise this new system, a 15 percent increase in the amount of funding those institutions received last year. In addition, next year, the Governor will call for an investment to make higher education more affordable by ensuring students from families making up to the median income will pay no more than $1,000 in tuition and fees per semester at state-owned universities and community colleges. Furthermore, to help students attending state-related universities and independent colleges, Governor Shapiro’s plan will increase PHEAA grants for students from families making up to the median income by $1,000.

According to the National College Attainment Network (NCAN), Pennsylvania is one of the least affordable states to attend college, with only 18% of two-year institutions and 0% of four-year institutions attainable for low- and moderate-income families. Nationally, 63% of two-year institutions and 31% of four-year institutions are affordable for that same population of students. Pennsylvania has the third largest average amount borrowed for the class of 2020 at $39,375 with 64% of learners accruing student debt.

The high cost of higher education hurts students with the fewest financial resources and keeps many Pennsylvanians from pursuing a higher education at all. On average, PASSHE enrollment has decreased by 30% over the past decade, and Pennsylvania community college enrollment has decreased by 37 percent over the same period.  

In addition to increasing resources available to community colleges and PASSHE universities, the new blueprint will help reverse declining enrollment trends caused in part by the high cost of higher education, simplify credit transfer for students, and increase collaboration and cooperation between public universities so that community colleges and PASSHE institutions can focus on their unique missions and successes rather than competing with one another.

The Governor’s blueprint will help ensure higher education is both affordable and accessible for all, giving Pennsylvanians the freedom to chart their own course and the opportunity to succeed. It will also provide more resources to colleges and universities that can be directed into student support services that help meet students’ basic needs so they can successfully complete degrees and credentials that lead to good-paying jobs. Additionally, Governor Shapiro’s 2024-25 budget expands access to community-based mental health resources with a $20 million increase in funding for county mental health services.

PA MASLOW is a cross-agency partnership that expands upon the mission of PDE – ensuring every student not only has access to education, but that the education pursued provides them with support and resources to create optimal learning environments. This initiative will engage postsecondary institutions in several pillars of work, including digital equity, housing and transportation, mental health, personal needs, adult student needs, finances, and safety and belonging. 

The program is a comprehensive guide to supporting postsecondary students, translated from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Basic Needs, which includes physiological, safety and security, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization needs. By addressing these basic needs in a more individualized approach, we can ensure that learners have everything they need to be successful and complete their credential.

For more information on the Pennsylvania Department of Education, please visit the Department of Education website.