Benefits Access for College Completion

September 10, 2012


College costs have skyrocketed, making it less and less accessible for many students. After accounting for financial aid, the average full-time community college student had more than $6,000 in unmet need in 2011-2012. Whether students can meet their financial needs often determines whether they can attend and complete college. While rising tuition costs get a lot of attention, there are many other costs students must pay - including living expenses and child care if they are parents - that often stand between them and their education. These expenses lead students to work or attend school part-time so they can make ends meet. Among young community college students, 66 percent work more than 20 hours per week to help pay for school and their home and family obligations, and 58 percent attend college part-time to accommodate work. Research shows that both of these factors negatively impact college completion.

What is Benefits Access for College Completion?

Benefits Access for College Completion (BACC) will test innovative approaches to increase the number of students earning postsecondary credentials in seven community and technical colleges across the country. BACC will help colleges develop and institutionalize scalable and sustainable organizational and funding policies and practices that connect low-income students to an array of public benefits, such as food assistance and health insurance. The initiative runs through 2014 and will be evaluated to see if low-income students who receive these resources can fill the gap between financial aid and the cost of attending college.

BACC is funded by the Ford Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, Lumina Foundation, and the Open Society Foundations. The Annie E. Casey Foundation is also contributing to the initiative. It is managed by CLASP and the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).

Participating colleges have created their own plans to integrate screening and application assistance for public benefits with the services and supports they already provide, like financial aid counseling and registration. The colleges are partnering with local and state human services agencies to better provide these integrated services.

Their strategies include:

  • Developing new campus centers and expanding existing ones that focus on helping students get the financial resources they need to complete college;
  • Identifying innovative financing strategies to fund people who serve as benefits screeners and facilitators on campus;
  • Building information about publicly available supports into financial aid conversations and through existing meetings with college advisors;
  • Partnering with state and county human services agencies to better serve students;
  • Integrating existing online benefits screening tools into on-campus activities;
  • Raising awareness among faculty, staff and students of the existence of these supports; and helping counselors and other direct service staff provide technical support to students.

Participating Institutions

The colleges participating in the implementation phase of the project are: Cuyahoga Community College (OH), Gateway Community and Technical College (KY), LaGuardia Community College (NY), Lake Michigan College and Macomb Community College (MI), Northampton Community College (PA), and Skyline College (CA).

Contact Us

For more information about BACC, please contact our CLASP project staff.

Amy Ellen Duke-Benfield
Project Director, CLASP

Tom Salyers
Press Contact, CLASP

Additional Resources

Read CLASP's report, Benefits Access for College Completion: Lessons Learned from a Community College Initiative to Help Low-Income Students >>>

Read commentary on BACC by Dr. Jim Jacobs, President of Macomb Community College and Dr. Regina Stroud, President of Skyline College >>>

Learn how the Affordable Care Act can help your community college students >>>

Read how three community colleges used innovative and successful strategies to implement their benefits access work through the use of student workers >>>

Final Evaluation Report: Public Benefits and Community Colleges: Lessons from the Benefits Access for College Completion Demonstration >>>

Login to BACC Group Site (Participating Institutions Only) >>>

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