Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD) and Arizona Department of Economic Services (DES) have partnered to provide students with the resources and information needed for food, medical and cash assistance.
MCCCD and DES announced in late August that DES officials will be at four MCCCD colleges throughout the 2019-2020 academic year to connect students and their families with additional resources that can assist them.
“A lot of students don’t realize that they may be eligible for public assistance or they may not know how to navigate the system,” Brett Bezio, DES deputy press secretary, said. “By having DES staff on the MCCCD campuses or by training MCCCD staff to become community assisters, they can actually meet with students, provide some outreach and help them navigate the application process and help them obtain those benefits that they really need in order to succeed in the academic world.”
According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, less than half of the 3.3 million students who are potentially eligible for Nutrition Assistance benefits have participated in the program.
“Some students may find themselves having to choose between putting food on their tables or going to class, buying books, stuff of that nature,” Bezio added. “We don’t believe that anyone should have to choose between fulfilling their dreams by going to school or meeting their basic needs.”
In a Wisconsin HOPE Lab survey of more than 2,600 Maricopa students, 57 percent of them agreed with the statement “I couldn’t afford to eat balanced meals.”
MCCCD Associate Vice-Chancellor of Student Affairs Felicia Ganther said the district wants to help the students and their families during their academic journey.
“The biggest benefit at this point is that we are bringing the services to the students,” she said. “If we can remove any barriers —transportation barriers, inability to get to those services, the fear of applying for those services— we’re doing our students justice by helping them to see the possibility of their future.”
According to both MCCCD and DES, when a student is worried about getting nutrition, cash or medical assistance it can negatively impact their education.
“I know that when people are struggling to put food on the table and they’re skipping meals, their academic performance declines. Sometimes they miss class and other ways that do affect their grades,” Bezio said.
“We know that any individual who’s hungry or who has to think about where they’re going to lay their head or how their family is going to eat, that’s going to be at the forefront of their mind, not a test, not an assignment,” Ganther said. “What we want to do is try our best to alleviate as many issues or challenges… so that they can kind of train and focus on their dreams and their academic journey.”
“College is the place where we make dreams a reality. So I think this partnership is just one of the major puzzle pieces that helps us to create a roadmap for student success,” she added.