With research showing that four out of ten of our students face housing insecurity and three out of ten sometimes aren’t sure where their next meal is coming from, Virginia’s Community Colleges have grown increasingly aware that non-academic challenges often disrupt student success.
To help ensure that students can connect with social services and other benefits they’re eligible to receive, VCCS colleges started rolling out Single Stop statewide last November. By the end of this month, Single Stop should be available at all of our colleges.
Single Stop is provided by a national non-profit that designed a brief online screener to connect applicants to a full range of local, state and federal social service and public assistance programs, including food stamps, local food pantries, housing programs, veterans benefits, and job assistance. Single Stop can be customized to include student services provided through local college foundations or other resources. The tool even includes online tax preparation help.
“Sometimes something as simple as a flat tire may be the thing that can derail a student from completing their post-secondary educational career,” Van Wilson, VCCS Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Experience and Strategic Initiatives explained to the VCCS State Board in March.
Dr. Wilson said hundreds of students already have benefited from Single Stop, and noted applicants represented a diverse profile of students. “This ties back to our strategic commitment to help address equity issues,” said Wilson.
Single Stop’s success rate his high. More than 90 percent of students who reached out for help though the program were successful in securing benefits. “And more than half of students were able to connect with multiple services,” added Wilson. “This connects students to benefits that otherwise would have been left on the table, and the benefits go directly to the students.”
“I think of it as the ‘amazon.com of benefits,’” Reynolds Community College President Paula Pando told board members. “We launched Single Stop at Reynolds in September of 2019, and our students have been able to secure more than $1 million in benefits to help them with transportation and putting food on the table, so they can stay in college.”
Reynolds is one of several of our colleges who have had a good experience with the tool.
“I’ve heard some worry that we’re making people dependent on benefits, but the opposite is true,” added Pando. “This is helping students get the resources they need now, as students, so they won’t have to be dependent in the future.”
The VCCS is able to deploy Single Stop statewide through a partnership with the Virginia Department of Social Services that generates funding for the project.
If you have questions about Single Stop at your college, check your college website, or seek out your college Single Stop Coordinator.
Learn more about Single Stop here.