The results of a recent higher education survey validate Washington State Community College’s focus on programs that help students overcome financial hardship, officials said.
The Student Financial Wellbeing Survey, conducted by the Trellis Foundation, covers a wide range of topics, including financial security, credit use, basic needs security, and mental health.
According to the survey, only 5% of Washington State students can rely on their current salary or personal savings to pay for their education. Additionally, nearly 70% of students would struggle to get $500 in cash or credit in an emergency.
The survey indicated that almost 60% of students experienced one or more insecurities related to basic needs, including food, housing and even homelessness.
According to WSCC Dean of Student Success, Kathy Temple-Miller, the survey results reinforce what staff and faculty are witnessing every day.
“Too often, our students face financial barriers that prevent them from achieving their educational goal,” said Temple-Miller. “Our goal as a college is to meet students where they are and connect them to the resources they need to succeed.”
The survey showed that one in six WSCC students show signs of very low food security. That’s 36% lower than the previous survey conducted in 2019. Temple-Miller believes the reduction in numbers is a result of the pantry the college created 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 for the pantry, the college restored the John F. Greacen Agri-Lab and began growing a variety of vegetables. Harvest from the garden is currently used to supplement fresh produce for the pantry.
WSCC President Vicky Wood said the survey results are important in shedding light on the significant challenges facing her students.
“While the survey results are alarming, Washington State has been very proactive in developing programs and resources to meet student needs,” says Wood. “We are committed to ensuring that our students have the resources to allow them to focus on their education and career path. »
Foundation Director Megan Hardway shared that the Student Emergency Fund is another resource used to help students. This fund allows the Foundation to help students meet unexpected expenses.
“Life happens, and for our students, it can jeopardize their academic plans,” Hardway said. “With the emergency fund, we are able to fill the gap when a student is faced with unforeseen circumstances.”
Last year, the Foundation was able to help 50 students with expenses such as vehicle repairs, driver’s license exams, utility bills and rent.
The college also offers students access to free comprehensive support services, including an on-campus mental health counselor and budgeting software.
“As a result of Trellis surveys, we are focused on providing ‘holistic’ support that removes barriers so our students can complete their education and transition into in-demand careers,” said Temple-Miller.
“The results of this investigation are not unique to this institution. College students across the country are facing the same financial challenges,” says Wood. “In 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, as it is the most effective route out of generational poverty and economic challenges.