“Engage the Village”: Partnerships (and VISTAs) to Support Low-Income Student Success

August 31, 2016

Concern about financial barriers to college enrollment and completion is widespread these days, for good reasons. In the Chronicle of Higher Education, Temple University faculty member Sara Goldrick-Rab identifies significant problems with higher education policy but also steps that colleges and universities can take “right now”:

First, colleges can do a better job of assessing students’ readiness to learn. . . . Remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: food, housing, safety, and sleep must be assured before we can move on to higher-order tasks.

Second, colleges can listen to students and give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they are sleeping in class not out of boredom but out of exhaustion. . . .

Finally, it’s time to think big. Beyond the perimeter of every institution is a community. We know education takes a village. It also takes a village to fight the poverty and financial stresses that prevent college success. So engage the village. Local food banks, social workers, housing authorities, transportation agencies — they are your partners.

Funders increasingly focus on the education “ecosystem” — including the Kresge Foundation (source of the image accompanying this blog post), the Lumina Foundation (also cited in a great new book, Becoming a Student-Ready College), and the Bush Foundation. Local newspapers have also applauded leadership commitments from Augsburg CollegeHamline University, and others.

Century College, Minneapolis Community and Technical College, and Inver Hills Community College have used MNCC’s College Health Corps AmeriCorps VISTA members to build partnerships that address health care access, housing and food security, and other challenges facing low-income students and families. Next year, we hope more members will take advantage of this resource. Interested in adding a full-time national service member to your team supporting student success? Contact MNCC Associate Director Sinda Nichols at sinda {at} mncampuscompact(.)org, 612-436-2080.