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PHCC to receive grant funds

Friday, August 29, 2014

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC) is slated to receive grant funds to carry out a strategy to help low-income students attain their educational goals as well as improve their finances.

PHCC announced Thursday it will be one of 16 community colleges in four states involved in expanding the Working Families Success Network (WFSN). According to its website, the network provides low-income people with support services to boost their financial security and help them find jobs.

More than 100 community-based organizations and community colleges nationwide already are in the network. PHCC’s involvement will be through Achieving the Dream, a nationwide initiative striving to make educational reforms that help community college students succeed.

Services will be provided through PHCC’s Student Success Center beginning in January, said Christy Yaple, the center’s director.

According to a release, the services will include:

• Education and employment advancement services. That includes helping students develop job readiness skills and with job training and placement.

• Income and work support services, which involve helping students access financial aid, public assistance benefits, tax credits and free help preparing tax forms.

• Financial and asset-building services. That includes financial education and coaching to help students and their families improve their financial situations.

Yaple cited a lack of access to child care and transportation as examples of economic hardships that hinder some students in earning a college education.

Through WFSN, the college will be able to provide qualifying students with subsidies to help with such needs, she said.

Yaple noted that as part of improving students’ financial literacy, the United Way will have a role, and financial aspects of PHCC’s “College Survival Skills” course that students take after enrolling at the college will be upgraded.

However, college officials still must determine many of the details of how services will be administered, she said.

Through Achieving the Dream, PHCC will receive a grant of up to $100,000 during each of the next three years to help the college provide the services, Yaple said. The college has not yet found out the exact amount, she said.

Most PHCC students are from working-class families, according to college President Angeline Godwin. Therefore, she believes it is important for the college to participate in WFSN.

She described the network as being “a 360-degree approach to student success that not only embraces what we do in the classroom, but (also) embraces our goals to serve the whole student.”

PHCC was selected to participate in WFSN through a competitive application process that assessed the college’s commitment to racial equity and poverty reduction as well as its demonstrated ability to support student success by using decision-making processes backed up by data, the release stated.

Various educational foundations nationwide support and help fund Achieving the Dream. That indicates “a high level of national attention and importance” in finding ways to boost student success, said Greg Hodges, PHCC’s dean of academic success and college transfer.

“If America is going to reach the targeted goal of 60 percent of its college-age citizenry achieving a post-high school credential,” Hodges said, “then we must work together to move heaven and earth in order to assist students in overcoming barriers.”

The 60 percent goal is based on measures set by President Barack Obama and the Lumina Foundation, one of many partners in Achieving the Dream. The foundation is involved in efforts to produce more college graduates.

“Student success is our overall goal at PHCC,” Yaple said, “and we feel these services will help us better serve our students through the completion of a (educational) program that will lead to gainful employment.”

Danville Community College is another of the 16 colleges that will be involved in expanding WFSN, the release showed.


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