Michigan Community College Association Launching Initiative to Tackle Economic Instability of Students

12/10/2019

By Monica Scott, MLive.com

RAND RAPIDS, MI – The Michigan Community College Association (MCAA) is launching an initiative in January to improve student success by addressing economic instability including access to food, housing, transportation, childcare and other basic needs.

The Michigan – Building Economic Stability Today (MI-BEST) effort is being funded with a three-year, $442,000 grant from the Los Angeles-based ECMC Foundation.

The grant is part of the nonprofit’s Basic Needs Initiative, designed to address and alleviate basic needs insecurity among students. Seven organizations and institutions received grants totaling $3.1 million over three years.

“We know that the lack of access to basic needs is frequently the reason that students leave college,” said Erica Lee Orians, executive director of the Michigan Center for Student Success at the MCAA.

“There are colleges who have been working on issues such as food and housing insecurity for a long time and we got this grant, in part, because of that great work.''

For example, Grand Rapids Community College has increased efforts to support students struggling with food, housing and other forms of financial security. The college has long had a food pantry in the Student Center but also now offers "Grab and Go'' snack pantries around campus to help satisfy hungry students.=

In June, GRCC announced a goal of establishing a single-stop resource center to better support students. It is one of three college action projects targeting the population around the goal of equity.

“The MI-BEST initiative is a critical component of our student success efforts and we are excited about expanding our work with this grant,’’ she said.

Forty-six percent of students at two-year community colleges and 36 percent at four-year colleges experienced some degree of housing insecurity during the past year, according to a survey conducted by the Wisconsin HOPE Lab.

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report estimates 30 percent of college students to be food insecure.

Orians said the Michigan Center for Student Success is leading the initiative for the MCCA. She said they will partner with nationally-recognized organizations and state groups including: the National Center for Inquiry and Improvement and Trellis Research, the Michigan Association of United Ways, MiBridges, and Lansing-based Public Policy Associates.

She said organizations such as the National Center for Inquiry and Improvement will be visiting Michigan and working with colleges on tackling the economic stability of students.

Next year, she said they will be asking community colleges to complete a self-assessment baseline on where they feel like are in supporting struggling students.

Orians said Public Policy Associates will be helping MCAA get feedback directly from students about their ability to access resources to meet their basic needs.

The ECMC Basic Needs Initiative was created in response to research from the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice, California State University, the National Bureau of Economic Research, and MDRC (formerly the Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation), and other groups.

“We are grateful for the partnership from ECMC Foundation and their visionary leadership to address economic instability to improve student success in Michigan,” said John Crist, chair of the MCCA Board of Directors and trustee at Jackson College.


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