CCs link needy students to benefits

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.

‘Sustainable’ food programs grow on campus

Thar’s gold in them thar greens. The food sustainability movement — and the growing demand for locally grown produce — has inspired community colleges to create new agriculture and culinary arts programs, reports Community College Times. 

Food is generally considered to be “sustainable,” according to Sustain: The Alliance for Better Food and Farming, if it is produced, processed and traded in a way that contributes to thriving local economies, protects the diversity of plants and animals, avoids damaging natural resources, and provides safe and healthy products.

At Metropolitan Community College in Nebraska, horticulture and culinary arts are in the same department. Culinary students work in the campus garden, using carrot and onion peelings to create compost.

MCC has an aquaponics system creating a food loop, with nutrient-rich water from a fish tank full of tilapia circulating to fertilize salad greens and herbs, then flowing back into the tank.

Culinary students learn how to cook the tilapia, as well as produce and herbs grown by horticulture students, in a student-run bistro and catering service. Horticulture students raise crops in a “hoop house,” a garden that can be closed up in the winter, creating a 10-month growing season. A patio herb garden showcases “edible landscaping.”

Some students are working on degrees in small-market farming with plans to specialize in such areas as orchard production, viticulture or small animal husbandry, (culinary coordinator Jen) Valandra said. Others want to start their own business producing specialty meats and sausages; cheese; honey; or raising small animals, such as ducks, squab or rabbits.

Students visit different kinds of farms, from a Cargill plant that processes 350 cattle an hour to a small farm that raises lambs.

Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn grows tomatoes, peppers, herbs, kale and lettuce in raised beds on its urban campus. Culinary students compost kitchen waste to help the garden grow, then cook the produce in class. Whatever’s not used in culinary classes goes to the college’s food bank to help needy students and local residents.

Noshing is colleges’ best practice (satire)

Community colleges will be accredited based on food, writes Jeffrey Ross in a Cronk of Higher Education satire. Colleges will be required to demonstrate how food fits into their “strategic visions, core values, mission statements, assessment plans, curricula and feedback loops.”

Research shows the importance of potlucks, said Dr. Tusk Manger, a reviewer and taste-tester for the Highbrow Learn-ed Commission.

. . . community college staff spend about 65 percent of their salaried work day preparing for potlucks, grazing, sharing recipes, emailing notifications about dessert needs at division meetings, chatting over hummus or quiche in the faculty lounge, planning bake sale fund raisers for partnering organizations and orchestrating classroom “cultural” studies which mandate at-risk eating activities. . . .  hard-core paper plate beanie-weenie concoctions and crockpot food–especially at division meeting potlucks–may represent a significantly overlooked part of every community college’s curricula. Eating is the best practice at all community colleges.

“Potluck” appears in 41 percent of all email subject headings at one community college in western Phoenix, according to a study by Dr. Jeffrey Roz, Hamilton State University, and Dr. Jann M Kontento, Copperfield Community College.

. . .  37 percent of all the benchmarking college emails contain some reference to pies, cheesecake, left-over mushroom pizza, bagels, garbanzo beans, COM 209 ethnic awareness potlucks, donuts in the dean’s office or “almost-gone” sliced summer sausage and cheese snacks remaining from a governing board meeting.

Ross and Jann Contento are the authors of College Leadership Crisis: The Phillip Dolly Affair, a comic novel about the fictional Copperfield Community College.