In the News | Foundation News

Collaboration Is Key To Helping SPSCC Students With Basic Needs Challenges Thrive

By ThurstonTalk

March 27, 2024

Via ThurstonTalk

To support its commitment to making education accessible for all, South Puget Sound Community College (SPSCC) provides an integrated network of basic needs services to minimize barriers to student success. This work is made possible through collaborations between the various on-campus services and departments, and partnerships with local social services agencies.

Providing cost-effective, short-term safety nets for vulnerable students allows them to navigate resources, problem-solve solutions, and stabilize their basic needs so they can focus on reaching their academic goals. 

An Integrated Approach to Problem-solving

SPSCC’s Financial Aid team is dedicated to helping students identify and apply for grants and scholarships, serving as an essential first resource. Thanks to the generosity of our community members, the SPSCC Foundation funds scholarships and grants to bolster student success.

For needs outside of the classroom, the Office of Student Life and the Personal Support Center work to reduce gaps by helping vulnerable students meet immediate emergency needs such as groceries, car repairs, or a meal to help them stay in school. By helping struggling students at critical times, these services are essential to helping students stay on track to complete their degrees.

Basic Needs Navigator Allie Moser shared: “Sometimes you see a student who feels that the multitude of Basic needs barriers, such as food and housing insecurity, plus health and safety issues obscure their view to their goals to the point where they may consider dropping out. It’s so rewarding to find out after they’ve graduated how a meeting with the Personal Support team helped change their trajectory.”

A Student’s Journey to Personal Support Services 

SPSCC’s comprehensive resource network provides services for students in six major areas: food, housing, transportation, technology, childcare, and health. Having safe spaces on campus where students can communicate their needs and ask about essential resources is a vital part of the process.

Once a student contacts the Personal Support Center, they have a face-to-face conversation with a staff member to assess their current needs and barriers to being successful in school. Specific resources are then identified to support them.

Emily, a returning SPSCC Transfer student and Personal Support Center employee shared, “SPSCC has so many opportunities for students. They have made it very clear they are a college that wants their students to succeed. I have never seen a college put out so much care into their students.”

After the highest-level needs are identified, the team makes every effort to ensure proper resources are made available with as little wait time as possible. If a student needs comprehensive support such as case management or resources beyond the scope of what the college offers, the Personal Support Services team can help them find the appropriate resource elsewhere.

On-Campus Food Pantry Services 

The SPSCC Food Pantry, a satellite of the Thurston County Food Bank, was established through the Office of Student Life in 2021 to help identify and reduce food insecurity among vulnerable students during the start of the pandemic. Students and local community members can visit to receive food and emergency supplies such as toiletries, even blankets, gloves, and hats during the winter.

Director of Student Life Electra Gupton explained: “After students returned to primarily on-campus classes, the demand for Food Pantry supplies has continued to grow. In 2023, the pantry served over 600 students, a 30% increase from 2022.”

Support for Students Facing Housing Insecurity 

Housing insecurity is a tremendous barrier for vulnerable students. Lack of affordable housing, expensive application processes, high move-in costs and deposit fees, high credit score minimums, and strict eligibility requirements limit options for safe housing.

Fortunately, SPSCC in collaboration with community partners and state agencies has made efforts to assist struggling students with housing resources. The college’s Apartment Program support team works with community partners to provide accessible limited single and shared housing units with flexible leasing options.

Additionally, the college receives a Supporting Students Experiencing Homelessness (SSEH) grant awarded by the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges.  Resources from this program help homeless students with access to essential services like laundry, storage, showers, food, technology, short-term housing assistance, and case management. As the demand for housing continues to rise, SPSCC remains committed to addressing this pressing issue.

How You Can Help a Student in Need Turn the Corner

SPSCC students reflect the composition of our local community. As students strive for a better future some must balance their educational goals with serious challenges such as food and housing insecurity and other barriers.

Too many students are one flat tire, sick child, or missed shift at work away from dropping out and not getting the education they deserve. With your help, more students can stay in class and on track to graduate. Visit the SPSCC Foundation’s Ways to Give webpage to learn more.