After losing her job in 2005, Sarah Young applied for public aid — and enrolled at Gateway Community and Technical College in Kentucky. Now she’s a success coach for Gateway’s Benefits Access for College Completion program, which helps low-income students find the aid they need to stay in school, reports Inside Higher Ed. “Our motto is short-term assistance for long-term success,” Young said. “I utilized benefits. It was short–term. You can gain self-sufficiency.”
Gateway is piloting the three-year, $4.84 million initiative along with Cuyahoga Community College in Ohio, LaGuardia Community College in New York, Northampton Community College in Pennsylvania, Skyline College in California, and Lake Michigan College and Macomb Community College in Michigan. The Ford, Kresge, Lumina, Open Society and Annie E. Casey Foundations are funding the project.
Advocates hope to lower the drop-out rate.
More than 70 percent of students who drop out of community colleges cite financial burdens and work obligations as their main reasons, said Amy Ellen Duke-Benfield, a senior policy analyst at the Center for Law and Social Policy and the director of the Benefits Access for College Completion program. The average community college student had more than $6,000 in unmet financial need during the 2011-2012 school year, Duke-Benfield said.
. . . The participating community colleges are linking students with groceries, rent assistance and childcare assistance, as well as making them aware of benefits they may not have known they were eligible for, such as Medicaid and food stamps.
At Gateway, faculty now tell their students about available services and the placement exams ask about financial need.
Northampton puts notices on bathroom stalls about food aid.
At Cuyahoga Community College, students can apply for benefits on campus through Project Go!
The next BACC challenge is informing students about their health insurance options: 69 percent of dropouts said health insurance would have helped them “a lot” in getting a degree.