Washington State Community College focuses on helping students meet financial challenges

MARIETTA — A recent higher education survey validates Washington State Community College’s focus on programs that help students overcome financial challenges.

The Student Financial Wellness Survey by the Trellis Foundation covers topics including financial security, use of credit, basic needs security and mental health.

According to the survey, 5 percent of Washington State students rely on their current wages or personal savings to pay for college. In addition, nearly 70 percent of students would have trouble getting $500 in cash or credit in an emergency.

Perhaps most alarming, the survey indicated almost 60 percent of students experienced one or more basic needs insecurities, including food, housing and homelessness.

According to Kathy Temple-Miller, dean of student success, the results of the survey reinforce what staff and faculty witness every day.

“All too often, our students face financial obstacles that prevent them from achieving their goal of an education.” she said. “Our goal as a college is to meet students where they are and connect them with the resources they need to be successful.”

The survey showed 1 in 6 students showing signs of low food security, 36 percent lower than the previous survey that was conducted in 2019.

Temple-Miller believes the reduced number is a result of the food pantry that the college established as a result of the 2019 survey. In 2021, the pantry supported 36 students and their families with emergency food.

Last February, to provide additional support to the pantry, the college restored the John F. Greacen Agri-Lab and began growing a variety of vegetables. The harvest from the garden is currently being used to supplement the fresh produce for the pantry.

College President Vicky Wood said the results of the survey are important in shedding light on the significant challenges faced by students.

“While the results of the survey are alarming, Washington State has been highly proactive in developing programs and resources to address students’ needs,” Wood said. “We are committed to making sure our students have the resources needed to allow them to focus on their education and career paths.”

Rather than focus on the results of the Trellis survey, the college has always focused on the solutions to the economic challenges faced by students, Wood said.

“We offer degrees and certificates that result in careers in fields with high-demand employment opportunities,” she said. “And we do a great job of supporting them while they get their education.”

Washington State Community College Foundation Director Megan Hardway said the student emergency fund is another resource used to help students. The fund allows the Foundation to assist students with unexpected expenses.

“Life happens, and for our students, it can place their academic plans in jeopardy.” she said. “With the emergency fund, we are able to bridge the gap when a student is faced with unforeseen circumstances.”

Last year the Foundation helped 50 students cover expenses such as vehicle repairs, licensure testing exams, utility bills and rent.

Those interested in helping the Foundation support Washington State students can contact Hardway at 740.885.5706 or [email protected].

The college also provides students with access to free wrap-around support services including an on-campus mental health counselor and budgeting software.

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