Struggling with finances

Nearly half of community college students say that a lack of financial resources could prompt them to withdraw, according to a new report.

More than one-third of community college students report that they receive Pell grants, which indicates a high level of financial need, according to the study by the Center for Community College Student Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin. Of those students, 61 percent live below the poverty line for a family of four.

Students who receive Pell grants are also more likely to take out a loan than students who don’t receive the grants, which they often do to cover the other costs of attending college, such as books and supplies, transportation, food and housing. The report noted that in 2011-12 the maximum Pell amount of $5,500 covered only 37 percent of the average total price of attending a public two-year college full-time.

While community college leaders forge ahead in developing ways to increase student success, the notion of college access — long a hallmark of public two-year colleges — remains part of the equation.

“Making sure students can pay their tuition — and pay for housing, food and other basic needs — must be an integral part of the completion agenda,” said CCCSE Director Evelyn Waiwaiole.

In some cases, eligible students don’t know they can receive federal student aid or other financial assistance because they don’t apply for it. Nine of 10 community college students report needing information about financial assistance, and of those 27 percent said the information they received from their college was inadequate, according to the report.

The report also includes outlines of a few promising practices that address financial literacy and loan management. North Virginia Community College, for example, integrates a financial literacy curriculum into its student development course and has loan default prevention programs. Amarillo College in Texas has a Student Money Management Center to provide students and families with financial literacy training and support. Skyline College in California and the state of Arkansas have broader comprehensive programs.

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CCDaily is published by the American Association of Community Colleges.