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Daily Needs Derail Degrees

It’s hard to imagine choosing between groceries or textbooks, enrollment fees, or the gas to get to class. Sadly, these are the choices many students experiencing poverty face. The lack of resources and support allows seemingly insignificant factors to derail the completion of career and technical education programs.

While various forms of financial aid might be available to assist with tuition, few resources are available to assist with sudden, unplanned expenses that can knock a student off course. MemWorks is studying the interventions that are effective at bridging these incidental gaps so we can collaborate with local workforce development stakeholders to better support students experiencing poverty.

A pilot in Eastern Tennessee sought to address these challenges by providing life coaches and a small financial stipend for community college students who were economically disadvantaged. For as little as $600 (the average annual financial stipend per student), this pilot nearly doubled the percentage of students who continued their program from 40 percent to over 70 percent!

Fact vs. Fiction

REALITY:  To access financial aid such as TN Reconnect and TN Achieves, students must navigate multiple eligibility requirements and application processes. Unfortunately, these processes can often be confusing and cumbersome. 1-in-4 students lost TN Reconnect funding because they did not maintain a program requirement, with the second most common reason being that they were unaware of the requirement to refile an annual application. The Collective Blueprint works with young adults to help navigate these challenges.

In the coming months, MemWorks plans to collaborate with schools, non-profits, and post-secondary institutions to determine ways our community can create better pipelines and robust support systems to help these students break the cycle.

Daily Needs Derail Degrees