What’s New in Low-Income Assistance Programs

Earlier this year students at Sarah Lawrence College were ridiculed by the media after taking over a building and including a demand in a manifesto that laundry detergent and softener be provided in campus laundry rooms. At the University of Kentucky about 300 students committed to a limited diet, and some to a complete hunger strike, until the university established a basic-needs center. And at Northeastern University the student government association ended stipends for its members, but agreed to revisit the payments or a reinstatement of scholarships to its low-income members. 

University of California Berkeley, Basic Needs CenterCampus administrators and student leaders are all taking on roles in addressing the needs of low-income students, a group with a high representation of first generation and diverse student populations, and the tools they are using are implementable on nearly every college campus. From pop-up thrift stores in the student union to special opportunity funds created by student governments, the following ideas offer a look at some of the techniques being used to guarantee access and success for low-income students. 

FOOD PANTRIES OF COURSE, BUT WHY NOT THRIFT STORES? 

Student unions host student-run thrift stores, student organization-organized pop-up thrift stores, free stores, and year-round thrift shops. Miami University and Wayne State University student centers host pop-up stores, and University of California-Irvine’s Cross Cultural Center offered three items of clothing for free at its pop-up. University of Pittsburgh’s O’Hara Student Center is home to its Thriftsburgh thrift shop.

RiceFirsts logoFIRST GENERATION AND LOW-INCOME STUDENT CENTERS 

Clearinghouse locations for low-income and first-generation students are becoming the norm, with Brown University, University of California–Berkeley, and the University of Pennsylvania being just a few. Associated Student Government at Northwestern University earlier this year approved a resolution asking the university to establish a similar center there. The centers at UC-Berkeley’s Cesar Chavez and Martin Luther King Jr. student centers offer counseling, support services, and referral networks while working with a multicultural coalition of recruitment and retention centers on campus. 

FIRST GENERATION AND LOW-INCOME STUDENT CENTERS 

Clearinghouse locations for low-income and first-generation students are becoming the norm, with Brown University, University of California–Berkeley, and the University of Pennsylvania being just a few. Associated Student Government at Northwestern University earlier this year approved a resolution asking the university to establish a similar center there. The centers at UC-Berkeley’s Cesar Chavez and Martin Luther King Jr. student centers offer counseling, support services, and referral networks while working with a multicultural coalition of recruitment and retention centers on campus. 

Thriftsburgh logoCAMPUS-BASED AND NON-PROFIT PROGRAMS 

Located in the Cloisters section of the Rice University Student Center, the Office of Student Success Initiatives operates Rice Firsts, a peer-based mentoring program for incoming first-generation and low-income students. The CalWORKS=CalGRADs Project at the student parent center at UC-Berkeley’s Cesar Chavez Student Center assists low-income student parents to gain access to childcare, food assistance, and medical services. Goodwill Industries offers free income tax preparation and filing at Northern Illinois University’s Holmes Student Center every year for anyone with annual earnings of no more than $54,000, and the CollegeTracks program in Bethesda, Maryland, helps nontraditional students through the college application process and then provides continuing support to insure students finish college with a degree. Keene State University’s L.P. Young Student Center co-hosts a poverty simulator where students role play in assigned family groups and then navigate a complex set of obstacles related to income, age, disability, and health issues. City University of New York’s nationally recognized Accelerated Study in Associate Programs provides a range of financial, academic, and personal supports, and it offers a resource guide for replication of the program at its website.   

 

   

  

 

  

 

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