Published on 2013/06/14

Forging Pathways for Success through Social Services

A program introduced last year helps boost the completion rate of adult learners and other individuals who must overcome personal hurdles to earn a post-secondary credential.

The Benefits Access for College Competition is a pilot program aiming to keep students on track while enrolled in higher education. This is accomplished by providing students with ongoing assistance to find and make use of public benefits.

The program was initiated last year by the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) and has encouraged various participating colleges to start implementing programs that can support struggling, financially-strapped students, including adult learners.

A 2012 study by the College Board found that in 2011-2012, an average full-time community college student had approximately $6,000 or more in unmet needs.

The efforts to date, implemented by the various participating colleges, have led students to find much needed social services and benefits that they would not otherwise have found themselves.

“We want to do everything we can to ameliorate the effects of poverty on student ability,” Gail O. Mellow, president of LaGuardia Community College told The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Until now, faculty have been the most influential members at institutions in terms of connecting students with the resources they need according to Amy Ellen Duke-Benfield, a senior policy analyst with CLASP.

43 year-old Northampton Community College student Brian F. Smith admitted that he experienced anxiety when it came to seeking out these types of benefits and services to help him. However, the program helped to change that.

“Just a little bit of help is all I’m asking,” Smith told The Chronicle of Higher Education. “I’ll take it from there.”

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