ccDaily > Focusing on students' financial need to hasten completion

Focusing on students' financial need to hasten completion

No
Commentary
Image: iStockphoto

​With backing from the nation’s leading foundations, seven community and technical colleges have announced that they will pilot an initiative testing innovative approaches to increase the number of students who earn postsecondary credentials.

Benefits Access for College Completion (BACC) is a three-year, $4.84-million initiative funded by the Ford Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, Lumina Foundation and the Open Society Foundations, and managed by the Center for Law and Social Policy and the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). The Annie E. Casey Foundation is also contributing to the initiative. 

BACC will help low-income students connect to coordinated income supports including child care subsidies and food assistance. The initiative will be evaluated to see if low-income students who receive coordinated income supports stay in school longer and complete their studies more quickly.

Public supports and refundable tax credits can help low-income students—who now comprise 40 percent of the student population—fill the gap between financial aid and the resources needed to attend college. The initiative’s aim is to help students complete their studies swiftly and successfully and move into jobs earning family-sustaining wages so they will be less likely to need such supports in the future.

According to the College Board, the average full-time community college student had more than $6,000 in unmet need in 2011-2012. The result is that 66 percent of young community college students work more than 20 hours per week to help pay for school and their home and family obligations, and 58 percent attend college part-time to accommodate work.

Comprehensive help

During the project’s planning phase, each college created its own blueprint to integrate screening and application assistance for public benefits with the services and supports that colleges already provide, such as financial-aid counseling. The colleges are partnering with local human services agencies to better provide these integrated services. Each one took into account local resources and policy contexts to develop strategies that will substantially assist students.

“We applaud these colleges for taking an informed and proactive look at how they can help those students most in need of financial and public support to pursue their college and career goals while dealing with work and family pressures,” said AACC President Walter Bumphus. “These benefits, including health insurance, food and child care, as well as financial aid, can help them to complete credentials and get into well-paying jobs.”

By the end of the grant period, the initiative will serve low-income students through these plans, which include:

  • Developing new campus centers and expanding existing ones that focus on helping students access the financial resources they need to complete college.
  • Identifying innovative financing strategies to fund benefits screeners and facilitators on campus.
  • Building information about publicly available supports into financial aid conversations.
  • Partnering with state and county human services agencies to better serve students. 
  • Integrating existing online benefits screening tools into on-campus activities.
  • Informing students about publicly available supports through existing meetings with college advisors.
  • Raising awareness among faculty, staff and students of the existence of these supports.
  • Helping counselors and other direct service staff provide technical support to students.

The colleges participating in the implementation phase of the project are:

The pilot period will last from fall 2012 through 2014, after which BACC will share the most successful strategies and lessons learned with policymakers and other community colleges nationwide to improve retention and credential completion.

Spc