Question

The value of a college degree is undisputed. A 2010 report from the College Board estimates that, among full-time workers, high school graduates earned a median annual income of $33,800; workers with an associate’s degree, $42,000; and, workers with a bachelor’s degree, $55,700.

Chapter 6 | Supporting Student Success in College

The information included on this webpage was excerpted from Chapter 3 of College Access and Success for Students Experiencing Homelessness: A Toolkit for Educators and Service Providers, available in its entirety at http://www.naehcy.org/educational-resources/he-toolkit.

support networks

Chapter 6, Part 5 | Establishing Networks of Support for Homeless Students on College Campuses
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Action Steps for Creating a Campus Support Network

While the characteristics of successful college support programs listed in Chapter 6, Part 4 refer specifically to successful SSS Programs, these programs’ approaches may be adopted, in part or in whole, by colleges who wish to increase the level of support they provide students experiencing homelessness; further, research cited in Best Practices in Student Support Services: A Study of Five Exemplary Sites supports that the strategies used to bolster academic success for low-income students also are likely to be successful with the general student population.

In addition, colleges seeking to provide greater support to students experiencing homelessness may wish to consider the following specific action steps in creating a network of campus support:

  • Designate a point person
    Colleges in Colorado and North Carolina are seeing positive developments as a result of appointing appropriate college staff members to serve as campus Single Point of Contact (SPOCs). The SPOC, often a staff member from the office of financial aid, student housing, or student services, takes the lead on all things related to assisting students experiencing homelessness. This person serves as a central repository of information and coordinates support efforts between campus offices. Visit http://www.cde.state.co.us/DropoutPrevention/homeless_fundedprog.htm to learn more about Colorado’s efforts to support college students experiencing homelessness and access resources to assist SPOCs in fulfilling their role.
  • Establish a Student Support Committee with representatives from key offices across campus
    Once the SPOC is designated, she should pull together a committee of representatives from various campus offices, including financial aid, academic affairs, student housing, admissions, student support services, student health, dining, and athletics. Representatives should be invited to take an inventory of ways their office may be able to support students experiencing homelessness. The committee should meet regularly to plan and implement a network of support and address new challenges and barriers as they arise.
  • Recruit community buy-in
    The Student Support Committee should conduct outreach efforts within the broader community, inviting interested agencies and organizations to be included in a list of places to which students in need may be referred for additional support.
  • Coordinate emotional and social supports
    The Student Support Committee should be mindful of the sense of isolation or intimidation that college students experiencing homelessness may feel, particularly during their freshman year. Providing a personalized orientation and campus tour for new students; ensuring that students have access to counseling, if needed; and forming a discreet support group where students experiencing homelessness can connect with other students in similar circumstances are a few ways that colleges can create a welcoming and supportive environment. Colleges may wish to reach out to former foster students, who face many of the same challenges as homeless students, and include them in these support efforts.
  • Invite charitable donations
    Homeless students often need more resources than are available through financial aid. As such, colleges may wish to work with campus organizations, and community agencies and benefactors to establish a dedicated fund to assist homeless students with financial needs that exceed their resources. One example is the Family Tree’s Higher Education Fund for Homeless Youth, a result of work by the Colorado Taskforce on Higher Education for Unaccompanied Youth Experiencing Homelessness. Established in 2011 using $4,000 of private seed money, the fund has been used to pay required student expenses that could not be paid by other sources. Examples include fees for student IDs; funding needed for special sized sheets to fit dorm beds; welcome kits that include shampoo, soap, toothbrushes, and toothpaste; and other basic need items. Fund administrators have found that the social return on investment dollars is significant. The amount needed to help remove barriers is nominal, while the potential for student success is high.
  • Establish a food bank
    Many universities, including Auburn University; Michigan State University; and the University of Massachusetts Boston have created food pantries for needy students. For students experiencing homelessness, having access to food in times of need may make the difference between staying in school or dropping out.
  • Be aware of federal resources for meeting basic needs
    College students experiencing homelessness may be eligible to receive assistance through various governmental programs, including Medicaid, Supplemental  Security Income (SSI), Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF), the Supplemental Assistance Nutrition Program (SNAP), and Runaway and Homeless Youth Act  (RHYA) shelter programs. See Part 4: Access to Basic Services Tip Sheets of the NAEHCY Unaccompanied Youth Toolkit for Financial Aid Administrators at http://www.naehcy.org/toolkit-financial-aid-administrators for more information.

While the above is not a comprehensive list, it provides a solid starting point for universities who want to provide targeted assistance to homeless students aimed at supporting these students not only in their initial integration into the campus, but in persisting all the way through to commencement day, when they will receive their diplomas and the degrees that are conferred therein.

NAEHCY State Higher Education Networks

Based on a growing awareness of the needs of college students experiencing homelessness, NAEHCY is working with states to create state higher education networks. These networks consist of stakeholders from K-12 education, higher education, Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) shelters, community agencies, and college access programs. Network members collaborate to identify and address barriers to higher education access, retention, and success for youth experiencing homelessness.

NAEHCY supports State Higher Education Networks by providing technical assistance, training, and facilitation to help the network develop a statewide higher education strategy for homeless youth. Strategies focus on raising awareness of the needs of homeless youth, increasing access to higher education for these youth, and identifying and providing basic needs and educational supports during the transition into higher education and while the student is enrolled in postsecondary education. Visit http://www.naehcy.org/legislation-and-policy/state-he-networks to learn more.

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