Reporter’s notebook

Photo: Matthew Dembicki
  • AACC consolidates AACC Live and Digital events
  • Loan counseling updates on StudentAid.gov
  • Emergency winter weather aid
  • A partnership focused on legal services for students
  • CUNY boosts mental health help counseling
  • A guidebook on reverse transfers

AACC consolidates AACC Live and Digital events

Due to the ongoing pandemic, the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) will consolidate its two events planned for the association’s annual meeting.

AACC was to hold a smaller, workshop-based in-person conference in April, followed by a digital conference comprising sessions on Thurdays in May. It will now cancel the in-person meeting and merge some of the programs into AACC Digital.

“Please be patient as we update our website, schedule, registration form, and issue refunds,” AACC said in a newsletter last Friday to CEOs of member colleges. “If you have submitted a proposal for the Live and/or Digital shows, we will communicate all decisions next week.”

Individuals who registered and paid for the Live event will receive a refund. Attendees with credits from 2020 can apply a portion of their credit to the Digital meeting, and AACC will apply the remaining credit toward attendance for its 2022 convention. If you have questions, please contact AACC at aaccconvention@aacc.nche.edu.

Loan counseling updates on StudentAid.gov

The U.S. Education Department (ED) this week upgraded its entrance and exit counseling components on its student aid resource website StudentAid.gov.

Entrance counseling is required before applicants receive a federal student loan as an undergraduate. Exit counseling is required when a student leaves the school or drops below half-time enrollment.

The updated entrance counseling is now more succinct and integrates with the department’s College Scorecard to provide program-level data, new knowledge check questions and new integrated loan repayment simulations to illustrate various repayment plans, according to ED.

The new exit counseling process includes integrated personalized loan information to help inform borrowers about their specific loan balances, repayment options and obligations.

Emergency winter weather aid

Wild fires, hurricanes, floods and the Covid pandemic. During each of these disasters and others across the country over the past several years, community colleges have stepped up to help their students during these tragic events.

So it’s not surprising that the Alamo Colleges District in Texas has created an emergency fund to help its students and employees struggling with the extreme cold weather in the state. The college’s foundation has established a Winter Weather Impact Fund that goes beyond its regular Student Impact Fund. Eligible students who need temporary emergency aid may receive assistance up to $1,000 based on need.

“Access to college doesn’t just mean academic help,” said Alamo Colleges Chancellor Mike Flores. “We also are committed to helping our students overcome hurdles outside of the classroom that keep them from reaching their educational goals and achieving social and economic mobility to give them and their families a better life. Especially at a time like this, we are stepping up to make sure our students receive the help they need.”

A partnership focused on legal services for students

Forsyth Technical Community College in North Carolina is partnering with the Community Law and Business Clinic at Wake Forest University to provide legal services at no cost to Forsyth Tech students.

The program will run through the office of Forsyth Tech Cares, which was launched as part of the college’s response to Covid and students’ needs outside the classroom, according to the college.

“The Forsyth Tech Cares office allows us to assist students with holistic services when ‘life happens’ obstacles threaten to keep them from graduating,” Stacy Waters Bailey, executive director of student success services, said in a release. “Having access to legal services is one more way we can help our students persist in their education with one less worry to complete their program.”

The legal issues mainly focus on consumer issues (collections, credit reporting, predatory lending issues, etc.), landlord-tenant issues, family law (non-contested divorces/custody paperwork), expungements, business start-up paperwork, immigration issues and government benefits issues. Essentially, Forsyth Tech students have access to free legal services for non-criminal cases.

CUNY boosts mental health help counseling

The City University of New York system (CUNY), which includes community colleges in the city, is rolling out more online services to help students struggling with mental health during the pandemic.

This week, CUNY is starting to provide confidential text-based counseling that will serve mainly to listen to students and suggest referrals. The system is also providing 10-hour training courses to 120 campus clinical counselors that will lead to their certification in telemental health counseling.

In the next few weeks, CUNY will begin providing faculty and staff with access to an online training program called Kognito, a suite of real-time simulations aimed at helping them identify and respond to students in crisis. The simulations cover topics including substance abuse, family relations and a range of mental health issues. The website will be customized for each CUNY college, with links to mental health and wellness programs on the campuses.

A guidebook on reverse transfers

A new guidebook details how two efforts in Los Angeles and Richmond, Virginia, help college students — especially students of color and those from low-income backgrounds — earn their associate degree through reverse transfer.

The study by the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) notes that reverse transfer — which allows students who transfer to a four-year institution without first earning an associate degree to apply new credits they earn toward that degree — can serve a significant role in helping them earn critical credentials. In addition to earning a two-year degree, it can increase the likelihood that students will complete their baccalaureate, according to the brief.

Many colleges have used reverse transfer to help raise completion and credential rates of their students over the past decade, but more can be done, according to IHEP. That requires a strong partnership between two- and four-year institutions as well as a strong data infrastructure to allow for secure sharing of student data among institutions to improve the process.

About the Author

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