Poverty makes staying in school tough.
At community college—where more than half of students are low-income—it can be especially challenging.
Community colleges are the most affordable way for low-income people to complete their education, yet fewer than half of community college students earn a credential.
Bridge to Finish helps low-income students get the services they need to stay in school and complete their education.
Who attends community colleges?
How It Works
The program is staffed by a variety of professional staff, AmeriCorps and AmeriCorps VISTA members and other direct service providers. This group reflects the diversity of the student body; services are offered in multiple languages. We’ve combed the country for best practices, surveyed students, met with college leaders and piloted a program in four colleges. The result is a program with these key components:
- One-time emergency grants. From eviction prevention to car repair, we’re offering emergency grants that help students stay in school. These grants are coordinated with other financial assistance and resources to ensure this one-time help supports long-term success.
- Easy access. We make this a one-stop experience for students. We’re on campus in prominent, convenient locations (we call them Benefits Hub)—and open a variety of hours.
- Variety of services. Financial tools are the foundation of the program. Depending on the campus, the food pantry may be what draws students in—or the financial workshops. Students can access coaching, assistance with financial aid, public benefit enrollment, and much more.
Success to Date
We’ve seen how 1:1 connections with staff and one-time financial support allows students to overcome the barriers they’re facing and stay in school. Successes include:
- Supporting students at nine community colleges. Your support has allowed this work to expand from a pilot program on four campuses serving 400 students to nine campuses serving 4,000 low-income students.
- Variety of services. The model of meeting people where they’re at and offering a wide range of services is a large part of the success. Students at area community colleges are a diverse bunch with a variety of needs and the variety is resonating with them.
- Leveraging National Service members to meet students where they are. By accessing federal dollars, we’re able to have more on-the-ground support and reach even more low-income students at a low cost.
- Increase completion rates. We will focus on serving first generation students, students of color and working parents.
- Influence public policy. With so many students struggling with hunger and homelessness, we are advocating for all community college students to have the financial resources they need to persist and complete. This includes access to food, housing, and emergency grants.
- Improve measurement. We’re working with the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges to add a new measure which will track completion rates of participants.
Bridge to Finish Honor Roll
With support from these generous donors, we are helping students graduate.
- Jon and Bobbe Bridge
- Don Guthrie and Candace Tkachuck
- The Smith Family
- David and Cathy Habib Foundation
- Kevin and Karen Smith
- Wells Fargo
- Boh and Marilyn Dickey
- Elizabeth Hebert and the Petunia Charitable Fund
- Marie and Charles Hoffman
- Laurie Samuelson and Christopher Haddad
- Mike Schaefer
- Ramamurthy and Meera Suresh