Michigan’s 28 community colleges are mobilizing to help tackle economic challenges, mental health issues and more. A fall 2020 financial wellness survey of more than 10,000 Michigan community college students found that the pandemic caused 86% of students to experience stress, anxiety and depression additional, while 56% of students would struggle to get $ 500 in cash. or a loan to meet an unforeseen expense.
It’s a lot of pressure for students to manage on top of their classes.
These barriers should not prevent students from completing their studies and reaching their career goals. That’s why Michigan Community Colleges launched the Michigan Building Economic Stability Today initiative in early 2020. Through MI-BEST, community colleges strive to help students reach their full potential with resources for help them tackle food insecurity, homelessness, transportation issues and childcare. The initiative was designed to support colleges in their efforts to create a structure that deliberately integrates student supports into the student experience.
As part of MI-BEST, significant investments have been made in emergency grants, free or reduced tuition fees, free technology loans, and student debt relief to the college. These efforts were implemented by Michigan’s 28 community colleges. Many colleges have also adopted early warning systems, ensuring that economic insecurity is detected early so that students can be directed to the appropriate supports.
This effort helps community colleges support their students beyond the four walls of the classroom in unique ways. Mott Community College opened a wardrobe with lightly used work clothes for students to use at no cost. It offers students a variety of clothing that can be used for job interviews or for work. Macomb Community College has also created a strong emergency aid program that reduces the financial burdens students face to help them stay focused on their studies and progress towards graduation.
Community colleges are also partnering with local organizations to better meet the needs of students. These partnerships allow colleges to offer additional resources on mental wellness, substance abuse, and increasing access to state benefits. West Shore Community College, for example, worked with other partners in Manistee to create a city center for student support. Through this network of support, community colleges increase the likelihood that students will receive the help they need.
But simply offering support to students is not enough. The hardest part is ensuring that students actually benefit from the resources available to them. Providing students with relevant resources is the most convenient way to see an increase in academic achievement and college completion.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created unexpected challenges for students, and they certainly need our support. Breaking down barriers to success is a win-win solution for community colleges and our students. As this school year begins, community colleges stand ready to support our students both in and out of the classroom.