When we talk about inclusion in higher education, the term can seem vague- however, some straightforward inclusion strategies involve making sure your students’ and trainees basic needs are met. There has been growing attention to student food and housing insecurity, including at the University of California.

However, we have very little insight on students’ access to healthcare, and the impact (lack of) access, stress of financial costs on students’ well-being (and academic outcomes). Healthcare needs are not included in the University of California Undergraduate Experience Survey, and the literature on college student health in general is incredibly limited as well.

UCD alum Vicky Vong, BA ’22, and Johns Hopkins MSPH ’24, reflecting on her experiences with health insurance and access to care as a low-income student at UC Davis, comparisons to her sister’s experiences at another UC, wanted to see what experiences other low-income UC students were having.  Vicky led the literature review, design, and analysis of a focus group study, with the guidance of (then doctoral student) Jenny Wagner, and the findings were recently published in the Journal of American College Health.

Vong V, Wagner JL, Ko M. Experiences of low-income college students in selection of health insurance, access, and quality of care. J Am Coll Health. 2023 Dec 1:1-10. doi: 10.1080/07448481.2023.2283741. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 38039417.


One of the takeaways is that it seems that university administrators- and the world of college health research- assume that students have equitable, timely affordable access to healthcare, perhaps because of student health insurance, student health services, and so on. However, that doesn’t account for the realities of Medicaid, co-payments, health insurance literacy,  navigating private sector healthcare…and more.

Check out Vicky’s paper to see how this shows up, and how students’ lives are impacted.