December 10, 2019 Rich Rezler
Washtenaw Community College is joining a statewide initiative to help students connect with resources to support basic needs. The Michigan Community College Association was awarded a $442,000 grant to launch the initiative focused on improving student completion and success by addressing economic instability among students including access to food, housing, transportation, childcare and other basic needs.
The Michigan – Building Economic Stability Today (MI-BEST) effort is funded by a grant from the ECMC Foundation as part of its Basic Needs Initiative, designed to address and alleviate basic needs insecurity among students. It kicks off in January 2020 and continues through June 2022. WCC will begin by forming a team of college personnel and community leaders in January.
“This initiative aligns with our current work in the Student Resource Center case management model, food insecurity, our Student Emergency Fund and addressing critical basic needs for students at WCC,” said Liz Orbits, Dean of Student Support Services at WCC. “This is an outstanding opportunity for WCC to be part of important work and expand our effort to eliminate barriers to student success.”
National survey findings reported that 45 percent of respondents had been food insecure in the past 30 days, 56 percent had been housing insecure in the previous year and 17 percent had been homeless during that year.
“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 Michigan Community College Association, “WCC’s participation in this initiative is a critical component of our student success efforts.”
The Michigan Center for Student Success is leading the initiative for the MCCA and will partner with nationally-recognized organizations including the National Center for Inquiry and Improvement and Trellis Research along with Michigan-based organizations including the Michigan Association of United Ways, MiBridges, and Public Policy Associates to support Michigan’s participating community colleges.
The initiative was created in response to research from the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice (Hope Center), California State University, MDRC and the National Bureau of Economic Research, showing that basic needs insecurity is prevalent among students at two- and four-year campuses and impacts students’ persistence and graduation outcomes.
The Michigan Center for Student Success, founded in 2011, serves as a hub connecting leadership, administrators, faculty, and staff in their emerging and ongoing efforts to improve student outcomes, emphasizing linkages between practice, research, and policy. The Center has led statewide initiatives focused on reengaging adults, developmental education, transfer, veterans, and advising. The Center is part of the 16-state Student Success Center Network working with over half of the community colleges across the nation.