Reporter’s notebook

Photo: Matthew Dembicki
  • Meal scholarship recipients attain higher GPAs
  • New Jersey community colleges seek increase in state funding
  • Pennsylvania college joins STEM learning network
  • Alabama college offers free welding workshop for women
  • Free tuition for first year at Illinois college’s new tech center

Meal scholarship recipients attain higher GPAs

A community college’s scholarship program to provide food-insecure students with meals is yielding positive results when it comes to those students’ grade point average (GPA) and re-enrollment.

Data collected in fall 2019 by Massachusetts Bay Community College show that the average GPA of the 48 scholarship recipients increased from 3.09 to 3.13 after receiving the scholarship. Students who were eligible for a scholarship but did not receive one because of a lack of available funding saw a decrease in their average GPA from 2.90 to 2.53 GPA, according to the college. Data from spring 2020 showed similar results: The 70 students receiving a scholarship maintained their 3.33 average GPA; The GPA of the six students the college was unable to fund dropped from 3.2 to 2.7.

The data also show meal scholarship students returned to college in the fall at a higher rate than those who did not receive a scholarship. From spring 2020 to fall 2020, the 70 students who received a scholarship returned to school at a rate 21 percentage points higher than the overall retention rate, according to the college.

MassBay launched the program as a $2,430 pilot in March 2019 and provided 29 students with meal cards for free and healthy options while on campus. Four semesters later the program expanded significantly, with 111 students receiving a total of $50,600 in scholarships during the fall 2020 semester. The level of assistance also increased, from approximately $20 per week at launch to $44 per week in fall 2020, thanks to the college’s partnership with Imperfect Foods, an online grocer that sells surplus food and imperfect produce at affordable prices.

“I can think of no more important nor impactful pursuit than the work being done on our campus to combat food insecurity,” said MassBay President David Podell. “Many of our students are overcoming financial and homelife obstacles, coming to college to forge a better life for themselves and their families. We can all understand how being unable to afford food and going hungry can derail a dream.”

New Jersey community colleges seek increase in state funding

New Jersey’s two-year colleges are urging Gov. Phil Murphy to increase their state funding, noting their services will be critical to a post-Covid economic recovery.

The New Jersey Council of County Colleges (NJCCC) seeks a $10 million increase in community colleges’ state operating aid for fiscal year 2022, it said in a press release. The additional funding would help support equity, access and student success, their students, communities and the state, the council said.

For the past 10 years, New Jersey has provided $134 million annually in operating support to its 18 community colleges, and it has actually decreased by $34 million over the past nine months, according to the council. State operating aid for community colleges now amounts to less than 15% of the total cost of operating community colleges, it added.

The state’s community colleges serve more than 300,000 residents annually in credit and noncredit programs, including workforce development training that serve thousands of businesses, NJCCC says. The council emphasized that two-year public colleges can:

  • Build a skilled workforce that can adapt to the changing economy.
  • Help a significant number of individuals who have lost their jobs.
  • Reduce the cost of higher education for parents and students.
  • Provide adults the opportunity to obtain new skills and careers.
  • Building strong industry-driven education and training pathways as the foundation of the state’s economy for years.

Pennsylvania college joins STEM learning network

Montgomery County Community College (MC3) is partnering with the Challenger Center – a nonprofit science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education organization – to bring a Challenger Learning Center to the college’s Pottstown Campus.

The center, which will provide hands-on, experiential learning opportunities for thousands of elementary school students each year, is the first Challenger Learning Center in Pennsylvania.

The Challenger Learning Center at San Antonio College in Texas. (Photo: Challenger Center)

“The Challenger Learning Center will not only introduce students to STEM, but it also will inspire them to pursue higher education, hopefully in STEM fields, that will lead them to high-demand careers with family-sustainable wages,” said MCCC President Victoria Bastecki-Perez. “This workforce pipeline will help Montgomery County and the region during this time of economic recovery.”

One of the goals for the new center, which will open this fall, is to serve students in traditionally underserved populations and increase their interest in STEM. The college hopes the center will serve about 7,000 students in grades five through eight, with at least 50% of students from underrepresented and underserved student populations. The center will join a network of Challenger Learning Centers that have reached more than 5.5 million children around the world.

Alabama college offers free welding workshop for women

Wallace Community College (WCC) will offer free welding workshops for females ages 16 and older as part of an effort to increase awareness and participation of nontraditional students in career and technical education.

The Wiregrass Resource Conservation and Development Council funded the grant for the awareness effort, which also includes Lincoln Electric as a partner. WCC will hold the workshops at its Dothan campus January 23 and 30, and at its Sparks Campus February 6 and 13.

“Our hope is that the workshops will empower women to see the earning potential they have in our community’s welding industry,” said Joe Johnson, director of workforce development at Wallace.

Though the grant is focused on nontraditional students, it is also a chance for high school students who are interested in welding through dual enrollment to get a firsthand look at what Wallace has to offer.

Free tuition for first year at Illinois college’s new tech center

Rock Valley College (RVC) will offer free tuition for in-district students who enroll in first-year coursework at RVC’s new Advanced Technology Center (ATC).

Programs of study that the college will initially offer when the ATC opens in August include CNC machining, industrial maintenance, mechatronics, truck driver training and welding. The college expects to assist about 300 students with free tuition.

‘If we are going to change the culture of education in our community, it is going to take regional, collaborative approaches like this to make a true impact,” said RVC President Howard Spearman.

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
is editor of Community College Daily and serves as publications director for the American Association of Community Colleges.