In a small office suite at Delgado Community College’s sprawling City Park Campus in New Orleans — home base for 10,295 students at the largest campus of Louisiana’s largest community college — a daily effort takes place to ensure that every student who requests it receives help with the basics of life. That effort is making a significant difference in the lives of students.
The Single Stop office at Delgado Community College has achieved a 97% confirmation rate for the quarter ending December 2015. The confirmation rate measures the success of the office at providing services to those who apply and qualify for benefits. This is a record high across all Single Stop college partners nationally and a 79% and 50% increase at Delgado over the same time period in 2014 and 2013, respectively.
Single Stop (www.singlestop.org) is a New York-based national nonprofit organization that harnesses America’s most effective anti-poverty tools to create economic mobility for low-income families and individuals. Its Gulf Region office is in Baton Rouge. It has other regional offices in San Francisco and in Raleigh, NC.
Through a unique “one-stop shop,” Single Stop provides coordinated access to a safety net worth nearly $1 trillion and services provided by almost a million nonprofits — connecting people to the resources they need to attain higher education, obtain good jobs and achieve financial stability.
At over 100 sites across nine states, Single Stop partners with organizations that serve low-income families to provide services and ensure their clients have access to all the major anti-poverty resources available.
Of the 12 million students enrolled in community college, half drop out. Many do so because of financial barriers. Completing school is not merely an educational achievement, but leads to better jobs and a more secure financial future. The unemployment rate for those with an associate’s degree is just over 4%. Early reports show that Single Stop can increase retention by double digits, helping families, increasing the skilled labor force and growing the national economy.
Despite having a staff of just herself, an intern and a work-study student, Delgado’s Single Stop coordinator, Gilda Brown Ebanks, has remained dedicated to addressing students’ needs by focusing on delivering services to as many students as possible. Ebanks, who holds a master’s degree in social work, has coordinated Single Stop at Delgado since 2014.
“Our Single Stop staff believes in treating all students with dignity and respect,” Ebanks said. “The rapport that Single Stop develops with the students allows them to express their needs in an environment conducive to receiving services needed for themselves and their families.”
One of the largest higher education institutions in Louisiana, Delgado provides instruction at eight locations in the Greater New Orleans region, serving more than 30,000 students each semester.
From 2012 through 2015, Single Stop and its partners served 7,568 families and individuals at Delgado, connecting them to $11,727,460 in benefits, tax refunds and support services, as follows.
Food assistance: 375 approved applications, $794,728 in benefits.
Health insurance: 111 approved applications, $860,000 in benefits.
Financial counseling: 418 served, $836,000 in services.
Legal services: 1,200 served, $2,832,610 in services.
Tax preparation: 3,892 returns filed, $6,095,310 in refunds.
Other resources: 465 approved applications, $308,812 in benefits.
The average income of students served by Delgado Single Stop is $5,462. They are mainly female (72%) and 22 percent of them work at least part-time. Also, 22 percent have at least one child in their household.
“I am so pleased by the success of the Single Stop office at Delgado,” said Christy Reeves, Single Stop’s chief executive officer. “They exemplify how connecting low-income community college students with resources can help them stay in school, graduate, and improve their lives.”
The recently opened Delgado food pantry is playing a major role in the success of Delgado Single Stop. In addition to receiving donations from the college’s faculty, staff and students, the pantry works with Second Harvest of New Orleans to provide food for needy Delgado students and their dependents. Second Harvest distributes commodities to eligible, needy families. It is the largest charitable anti-hunger network in Louisiana.
Since October 2015, with assistance from Single Stop, the Delgado food pantry has helped more than 270 students and their families. On the first Friday of each month, they come to the food pantry in the Student Services Center to collect basics including vegetables, fruit, breakfast items and a variety of staples.
“The Single Stop program, especially the food pantry, has added a new level of support for our students. I was initially very surprised at the need for this service,” said Dr. Arnel W. Cosey, vice chancellor for student affairs at Delgado and executive dean of the City Park Campus. “I am extremely grateful to Gilda and her team, as well as the students, faculty and staff for the incredible support they’ve provided.”
Noting that the food pantry effort is expanding to two additional Delgado campuses, West Bank and Sidney Collier — home to 3,054 enrolled students — Cosey said the Delgado experience “speaks volumes about the importance of addressing food insecurity as an issue on college campuses.”
The national data on hunger among college students, including community college students, is disturbing. A 2015 study by the Wisconsin HOPE Lab found that 20 percent of community college students surveyed were experiencing hunger. A 2011 study in Oregon found that 59 percent of students at a midsize rural university were at risk of going hungry, and a City University of New York study from the same year found that 39 percent of its students were similarly at risk.
What is most striking about these numbers is that nationally only 14 percent of households are in danger of going hungry. Despite the economic burden attending college creates on low-income college students, dropping out is not an option for most. They know that education is pivotal to improving life for themselves and their families.
Recent research has found that, among community college students nationally:
· Fifty-two percent indicated they were struggling with food insecurity, housing insecurity, or both.
· One in five students went hungry while attending college.
· Thirty-one percent of African American students and 23 percent of Latino students had very low levels of food security, compared with 19 percent of non-Hispanic white students.
· One in eight was homeless at some time in his or her college career.
· More than half (52%) of African American students experienced housing insecurity, with 18 percent experiencing homelessness, compared with 35 percent housing insecurity and 11 percent homelessness among non-Hispanic white students.