Benefits Access for College Completion
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Introduction

Some community colleges help their students gain access to public benefits such as food assistance, child care subsidies and subsidized health insurance, but most do so in piecemeal fashion. Very few embed benefits access into their processes in a systematic, holistic way. Starting in late 2011, seven community colleges were funded to develop strategies to do just that.

The Benefits Access for College Completion (BACC) initiative was designed to give community college students access to a full range of public benefits. The effort tested the hypothesis that such benefits would support college persistence and completion, leading to success in the workforce.

Conclusion

Connecting students with public benefits can help them make ends meet. But students face significant barriers at multiple levels. Students are often discouraged from applying for benefits by complicated applications, documentation requirements, long and confusing forms and in-person interviews. Also, demand often outpaces supply for assistance such as child care and housing.

But BACC succeeded, confirming the hypothesis that access to public benefits can help support student success. By packaging public benefits, strategically locating resources visibly on campus, and embedding activities into their operations, community colleges can help meet the financial needs of low-income students.

However, government policy is a key factor in the success of a comprehensive benefits-access strategy at any college. For such a strategy to be scalable and effective, two things are required:

  1. Alignment between financial aid programs and the rules governing state and federal public benefits.
  2. Assurance that benefits programs support postsecondary attendance.