Juliana Lancaster, Ph.D.,
Executive Director, Office of Plans, Policies, and Analysis
Georgia Gwinnett College
Other Team Members
This project proposes to develop a customized publication of resources and services that can strengthen support for first-year low-income students to address their needs beyond financial aid. Providing information to low-income students early in their academic careers can help students persist in college (Heller, 2013). Therefore, we will host two meetings with stakeholders to develop a scalable action plan to address monetary and non-monetary needs. The first meeting will focus on collecting and assessing data, analyzing policies, and examining existing and potential resources. The second meeting will result in deliverables to include recommended policy changes, regional resources addressing the needs of economically disadvantaged students, and effective strategies to empower students to utilize resources. The culmination of these meetings will result in a customizable publication including student, institutional, and community data for use by all USG institutions.
Potential Impact of Capacity Symposium:
This project has the potential to level the playing field by providing more resources, opportunities, and solutions for low-income students throughout the state of Georgia, with a particular focus on first-year students. USG Institutions will be equipped to identify low-income students, capture and assess data to understand their non-monetary needs, and gain access to regional resources to assist meeting those needs, which will increase completion rates. Increasing first-year success, retention, and completion for this demographic has the potential to transform the state of Georgia poverty and unemployment rates which are ranked 44th and 45th, respectively. Higher education provides a pathway for individual economic advancement, as well as social mobility (Lee, Hill, & Hawkins, 2012). Furthermore, the goal of our project is perfectly aligned with the mission of Complete College America: To close attainment gaps for traditionally underrepresented populations.
Area of Need
One of the primary goals of Complete College Georgia is to “Improve Access and Completion for Underserved Students.” It is important to focus our efforts on providing higher education for economically disadvantaged students because attaining a postsecondary credential has become increasingly important for securing opportunities to get high-return jobs in the U.S. in the 21st century. According to Carnevale, Smith, and Strohl (2010), over half of the jobs in the United States will require a postsecondary credential in the future.
Thus, support programs designed to serve low-income students are likely to improve the ability of these students to persist, progress, and complete their college degrees. Colleges and Universities often use the Federal criteria for Pell Grant eligibility as a reasonable proxy for low-income student status. Using that measure 45% of undergraduate students within the University System of Georgia (USG) are low-income. For the institutions collaborating on this submission, the percentage is more notable with approximately 50% of Georgia Gwinnett College (GGC) students and 40% of University of North Georgia (UNG) students.
While need-based grants provide an essential base of funding for direct educational costs, they are known to be insufficient to cover all educational and living expenses, leaving low-income students with unmet need. Additional grant and scholarship dollars are also unlikely to meet the full needs of such students, leaving these students facing potential insecurities in housing, child care, health care, food access, and transportation, any of which can derail a student’s continued enrollment. Access to stable housing and basic necessities can result in increased student engagement on campus and higher connectivity with the college (Bliming, 2015). Thus, any broad institutional focus on supporting students holistically and promoting continued enrollment must include plans and programs to support students who face such challenges.
Developing such plans and programs requires information gathering and planning around four general topics:
This project will convene teams from regional institutions and community stakeholders to discuss and review these topics and to develop scalable plans for:
Ability of meeting to produce plan to address needs
Several factors of this proposal support the likelihood that sound, actionable plans will result:
Potential Impact on student success and college completion
Students who are economically disadvantaged are less likely to go to college, complete college, and earn high wages (Carnevale, Smith, & Strohl, 2013). The University System of Georgia reported approximately 117, 485 undergraduate students as low-income in fall, 2014. Economically disadvantaged students who find themselves without transportation, child care, or housing are often unable to reach campus and, thus, are unable to continue their courses and/or enrollment. Even short-term disruptions in these areas can lead to academic failure and withdrawal. Further, students who depend on support from various governmental programs can find the eligibility and continuation requirements, particularly those requiring personal appearance in offices, highly disruptive to their educational schedules. Support structures and programs that can aid students in averting the loss of necessary stability factors such as housing, food, and transportation or that can reduce the barriers to access for off-campus support programs have a direct impact on student attendance and completion of necessary course work, and, thus, impact overall student success, persistence, progression, and completion.
Potential Lessons Learned
Scalability and Broader Impact