In Fall 2016, Monroe Community College (MCC) participated in the Wisconsin Hope Lab study on basic needs insecurity in higher education. Results underscored an urgency to respond to our students’ needs around food and housing insecurities. A number of programs and initiatives have been created as a result.
Single Stop connects students to benefits and resources to help them succeed in achieving their personal, career and academic goals. Free one-on-one assistance is available to students around finding ways to afford groceries, transportation, child care, health care, housing and other resources. Referrals are made to local agencies with the goal of assisting with getting finances back on track along with improving credit, getting legal counseling, filing taxes and more.
Through a collaboration with local transit authorities, Single Stop provided 60 free universal bus passes for students most in need. Since inception, Single Stop has helped 385 students of which 67.4 percent completed the term and returned the following semester. Kimberly Statt, student and mother of five, stated that because of her “beautiful bus pass,” as she calls it, “I can take one of my kids to the doctor, go back and forth from home and school and not be stressed about where that $50 or $60 every month is coming from.”
Dreamkeepers is a program designed to help retain students when faced with an unforeseen financial emergency. Students can apply, regardless of socioeconomic status, once they exhausted other financial options. Grants awarded are up to $500 and do not need to be paid back. Students can receive assistance for rent, car repairs, utility bills, bus passes and other expenses, which may put them at risk of dropping out. Once approved, funds are paid directly to the vendor. The MCC Foundation has established a $1.5 million endowment to support Dreamkeepers at MCC. The retention persistence rate for recipients is 85% compared to 61% for non-recipients during the same timeframe.
DWIGHT (Doing What is Good and Healthy Together) is a multi-campus food pantry created to support students and employees struggling with food insecurity. DWIGHT is a persona taken on by a mobile food wagon as well as the physical pantries. Food items in the wagon are tagged with a slogan, “grab a bite, need more tonight?” and provides information on the pantry locations. Asking for DWIGHT removes the stigma of using the food pantry. DWIGHT was created in partnership with Foodlink, whose mission is to end hunger and leverage the power of food to build a healthier community. This has led to collaborations with national food vendors such as Panera Bread and Trader Joe’s. In addition, Public Safety initiated a Food for Fines program where members of the MCC community who owe parking fines can donate food to wipe out a balance.
In 2017, the MCC Resource Committee was created to streamline support services and expand awareness of available resources within the MCC community. Based on the MCC strategic plan, the charge was given to convene a diverse group of faculty, staff and administrators and the committee quickly grew much interest throughout the college community. The goal is to expand awareness of college community members regarding the above mentioned resources and others, while working to provide a safe environment to encourage help seeking behavior from those in need.
The above data demonstrate success in retaining students regardless of socioeconomic status, however more work is needed in the area of using emergency aid to assist with completion. Future goals include expanding off campus vendor collaborations, seeking grant funding to expand resource offerings in the area of substance abuse/recovery support and child care as well as broadening assistance for those struggling with transportation insecurities.