Author Bio

Sarita Cargas is an associate professor of human rights in the University of New Mexico Honors College. She is a founder of the UNM Basic Needs Project, which just completed one of the few statewide studies of food and housing insecurity in higher education. She is the author of a book on HRE: Human Rights Education: Forging an Academic Discipline (2020) and the co-author of several reports and publications about the BNP’s findings. cargas@unm.edu

Tammy Thomas is Assistant Professor and the Director of Undergraduate Education at the University of New Mexico. Dr. Thomas is a Public Health Social Worker with over 30 years of experience working with communities, teaching and conducting research. She is motivated by issues of inequality and injustice and has always worked in partnership to further the voice of marginalized individuals and communities. She primary uses qualitative research methods to learn from individuals and communities. Her recent work focuses on maternal and child health, the basic needs of students, and understanding the experiences of first-generation college students. TaThomas@salud.unm.edu


There have now been fifteen years of research on the basic needs of college students in the U.S. The studies have primarily focused on assessing the prevalence of food and housing insecurity. Determining who is responsible and finding solutions have been less emphasized. The scholarship has also not framed the problems of students’ basic needs insecurity (BNI) as human rights violations. This article argues that applying a human rights lens to the issue reveals that the rights to education, food, and shelter are not being realized, but further, higher education institutions bear considerable responsibility for addressing BNI. Human rights education will also be shown to have a role in empowering students them-selves to right these wrongs.

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