The results of a recent higher education survey validate Washington State Community College’s focus on programs that help students overcome financial challenges, officials said.
The Student Financial Wellness Survey, conducted by the Trellis Foundation, covers a wide range of topics including financial security, use of credit, basic security needs, and mental health.
According to the survey, only 5 percent of Washington State students are able to 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.
The survey indicated that almost 60 percent of students experienced one or more basic needs insecurities, including food, housing, and even homelessness.
According to WSCC Dean of Student Success, Kathy Temple-Miller, 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,” said Temple-Miller. “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 WSCC students show signs of very low food security. This is 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 fact, in 2021, the pantry was able to support 36 students and their families with emergency food.
Last February, in an effort 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.
WSCC President Vicky Wood said the results of the survey are important in shedding light on the significant challenges faced by its students.
“While the results of the survey are alarming, Washington State has been highly proactive in developing programs and resources to address students’ needs,” said Wood. “We are committed to making sure our students have the resources needed to allow them to focus on their education and career paths.”
Foundation Director Megan Hardway shared that the student emergency fund is another resource used to help students. This fund allows the Foundation to assist students with unexpected expenses.
“Life happens, and for our students, it can place their academic plans in jeopardy,” said Hardway. “With the emergency fund, we are able to bridge the gap when a student is faced with unforeseen circumstances.”
Last year the Foundation was able to help 50 students cover expenses such as vehicle repairs, licensure testing exams, utility bills, and rent.
The college also provides students with access to free wrap-around support services including an on-campus mental health counselor and budgeting software.
“As a result of the Trellis surveys we are focused on providing ‘wholistic’ support that removes barriers so our students can complete their education and transition into in-demand careers,” said Temple-Miller.
“The results of this survey are not unique to this institution. College students across the country are facing these same financial challenges, ”he said. said Wood. “At Washington State, we are focused on student success and we proactively address these challenges with a host of programs and assistance provided by our Foundation. Education is the key to transforming the future of our students, their families, and our community because it is the most effective pathway out of generational poverty and economic challenges. ”