The challenges of poverty do not disappear when a student enrolls in college. In fact, many of the support programs for youth (like free school lunch) end when a person reaches the age of 18. Higher education, while one of the pathways out of poverty, is not designed to support the basic needs of students experiencing homelessness, food insecurity, and the lack of childcare and reliable transportation. In some cases, affording college can be the reason that a student faces these financial barriers. Over 20 million students enroll in college every year in the United States; over 40 percent will drop out before they complete their degree. We know that academics are not the only barrier to graduation; many students leave because they simply cannot afford to stay in school.
The numbers are alarming. A recent survey by the Wisconsin HOPE Lab found that 36% of university students and 51% of community college students were food insecure in the past year, while 9% of university students and 12% of community college students were homeless in the past year. Recognizing the financial difficulties facing their students, college administrators and faculty are taking steps to build a truly holistic support structure on campus. Campuses nationwide are addressing student hunger through the creation of food pantries, emergency aid funds, completion grants, and systems of referral for service providers in their communities. Students present with varying challenges and with varying needs, however, and the informal approach to outreach, lack of funding, and decentralized organization can make programs like food pantries difficult for students to access.
Some of these students are on your campus today, and many will join you in the future. It is critical to develop strategies and services to ensure they do not become part of the dropout statistics, but instead are your success stories!
Single Stop began its Education Program in 2009, recognizing that our benefits screener technology and one-stop shop model could be advantageous for institutions of higher education. From there, the program expanded to 30 colleges across the United States, each tailoring the elements of the program to its own needs. Site staff are housed in their own location on campus, usually in a hub of student activities and services, and meet with students to determine the most appropriate interventions for their particular challenges.
Since the program began, educators have utilized the Single Stop tools to connect 269,272 students to $548 million in benefits and services, including free tax preparation, legal advice, and financial literacy counseling. External evaluations of Single Stop have found that students who utilized Single Stop services were more likely to attempt more credits, earn more credits, and persist semester to semester than their peers who did not.
Bringing Single Stop to your campus requires a commitment of resources including staff time, physical space on campus, and financial resources to support outreach and programming. We work with you to sign a contract of partnership. We also advise as you begin identifying space, allocating or hiring staff, and prepare for an official launch of the program.
Single Stop offers a comprehensive 8-week course, instructed by Single Stop staff, where you will learn alongside with other new sites in colleges and community organizations across the country. Over the course of 8 weeks, participants will:
In addition, there will be space to exchange new ideas, learn best practices, and build a network of peer support. Launch classes meet for one hour weekly and are offered six times a year.
Upon completing the launch course, you will receive your own Single Stop screener and case management platform and will open your doors to serve your students. Single Stop staff provide ongoing consulting and one-on-one support for program implementation and troubleshooting through the first 8 weeks of your opening, helping you to devise strategies for campus outreach and community partnership-building.
After the 16-week launch phase concludes and a site is fully operational, Single Stop will provide your campus with continuous technical support and networking opportunities, as well as semi-annual strategy sessions to support the long-term success of your program.