By linking low-income community college students to benefits such as food stamps, medical insurance, child-care assistance, legal aid and other public help, the Benefits Access for College Completion hopes to increase retention and graduation rates.

The American Association of Community Colleges has launched the three-year, $4.84 million initiative, which will be piloted at six community colleges.  Led by the Center for Law and Social Policy and AACC, with funding from the FordKresgeLuminaAnnie E. Casey and Open Society foundations, BACC hopes to help students complete college faster and become economically self-sufficient.

The participating schools are Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, Gateway Community and Technical College and Owensboro Community and Technical College in Kentucky, LaGuardia Community College in New York, Northampton Community College in Pennsylvania, and Skyline College in California. In addition, two schools in Michigan — Macomb Community College and Lake Michigan College — will share perspectives from similar work.

LaGuardia Community College President Gail Mellow said the initiative is a “huge opportunity” to help “financially troubled students get the benefits they are eligible to receive” and to help “shape the policy environment.”