By partnering with community colleges, Single Stop harnesses two of the country’s most effective anti-poverty tools: coordinated access to America’s safety net and a post-secondary education. Here’s how: More than 12 million students attend community colleges across the country every year. Community colleges offer an opportunity for low-income students (many of whom are single, working parents) to obtain a post-secondary education, and with it, a degree that significantly boosts their lifetime earnings. Sadly, financial obstacles prevent the vast majority of community college students from graduating. Nationwide, only 31 percent of students who set out to earn a degree actually complete it.
The low retention and graduation rates are not surprising given the many obstacles students confront. We know that many community college students struggle with barriers such as inadequate child care, food and transportation costs, housing and financial problems, health care access, immigration issues and other concerns that make it difficult to stay, let alone succeed, in school.
To ensure a holistic approach to the multitude of barriers that students face, Single Stop provides colleges with the resources, training, technology, and technical support to facilitate comprehensive case management, benefits access, legal counseling, tax preparation and critically, financial coaching to address issues like debt management, budgeting and credit clean-up. All services are free to students.
The impact has been encouraging. In 2012, Single Stop’s community college sites drew down benefits and services worth over $1,947 per student served! Preliminary data indicate that those students who access Single Stop services are more likely to stay in school.
By pairing financial resources in the form of tax credits and benefits like food stamps and Medicaid with financial and legal counseling, Single Stop aims to provide students with the tools they need to achieve a higher education, good jobs, and economic mobility.