graphic design for the Sun Post and NHCC's column

Even students who are succeeding in their coursework can have their education derailed by unexpected life challenges.

Helping students overcome these challenges can be a vital contributor to student success and ultimately the state’s workforce.

North Hennepin Community College recently administered a needs assessment with students enrolled for the spring 2023 term.

Of the 518 respondents, 12% needed access to a computer, 11% needed access to Wi-Fi, 39% needed access to academic support and resources, 5% needed support finding housing, 14% needed support accessing food, 22% need mental health support, and 12% needed support accessing transportation.

NHCC’s CARE (Counseling, Advocacy, Resources, Empowerment) Center is staffed with a mental health therapist, a social worker and a counselor. Services are free and confidential, helping students define and meet their personal, academic, and career goals.

In addition to services, students’ basic needs can be met through a variety of resources, including the food cupboard that provides fresh produce, non-perishable food, frozen vegetables and meats, hygiene items, baby items, and ready-to-eat meals from Kitchen Coalition.

The social worker assists students in finding low-cost healthcare and energy assistance, access the local food pantry and SNAP, locate money management information and more.

“As a college campus, we understand that meeting basic needs is a critical foundation for student success. Our students are managing a variety of life responsibilities and if they don’t have to worry about where they will sleep or where their next meal is coming from, they are able to reach their full potential,” said Ellie McDowell, NHCC social worker. “We are committed to supporting students with basic needs such as food, housing, transportation, and healthcare so that they feel equipped to focus on their studies and be fully engaged in their educational experience!”

Through a generous donation, NHCC established an emergency grant program called Random Acts of Kindness that offers one-time funds up to $500 to students who are experiencing financial hardship, for example, an unforeseen car repair, medical costs, or other barrier they cannot meet.

North Hennepin Community College and Minnesota State have partnered with United Way 211 to establish a statewide basic needs resource hub. The basic needs resource hub provides NHCC students access to basic needs resources and support available on campus and in the community via phone, text, or chat 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.

The Minnesota State budget request also includes programs that support affordability and encourage persistence and completion for students who transition from a Minnesota State two-year college to a Minnesota State university.

One set of transfer scholarships would encourage students to complete any of the 26 Transfer Pathway programs at Minnesota State colleges and transfer to a Minnesota State university to earn a bachelor’s degree.

Another set of scholarships would be awarded to students who complete an AA, AS, or AFA program at a Minnesota State college and are admitted to a major program of study at a Minnesota State university.

Often, the challenges that cause students to put their educational goals on hold are not related to the coursework but are more related to challenges outside the classroom. If an added measure of support makes the difference between a student who stops out and a student who completes and achieves their educational goals, this support is a worthwhile investment indeed.

Rolando García is president of North Hennepin Community College.

Copyright © 2023 at Sun Newspapers/ APG Media of East Central Minnesota. Digital dissemination of this content without prior written consent is a violation of federal law and may be subject to legal action.

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