Thousands of students across four colleges may be eligible for government programs that can help them persist and graduate
PHILADELPHIA, Pa., February 15, 2023 – Four Maryland community colleges are teaming up with a national nonprofit, Benefits Data Trust (BDT), to reach thousands of their students who may be eligible for untapped public benefits that can help them stay in college and graduate by paying for food, healthcare, internet service and other necessary expenses. Students may be eligible for programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), the Child Tax Credit, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
With support from Share Our Strength, BDT is working with the colleges – Carroll Community College, Chesapeake College, College of Southern Maryland, and Wor-Wic Community College – to inform their students about public benefits eligibility and offer application assistance. This winter, approximately 8,000 students across the schools are receiving text messages and/or emails with information about public benefit programs, inviting them to call the Maryland Benefits Center, where BDT staff help people confirm their eligibility for multiple benefits and submit applications on their behalf.
This work is based on a new toolkit released today by BDT: “Benefits Access for Student Success: Leveraging Data to Find Eligible Students.” The free tool is designed to help higher education institutions use data to help inform outreach to students who are likely eligible for benefit programs.
“Our students come from a wide range of income levels, so the ability to identify who is actually eligible for public benefits will help us reach out to those students more effectively,” said Kristie L. Crumley, Associate Provost of Student Affairs and Marketing at Carroll Community College. “To support student retention and degree completion, we’re using BDT’s toolkit to take a much more proactive approach to connecting students to a streamlined process to get the benefits that they deserve. These benefits can make a huge difference in a student’s life and their ability to stay enrolled in college.”
National research studies conducted by The Hope Center and the Center for Community College Student Engagement found that over one-third of students struggle to pay for food and housing while attending college, with rates disproportionately higher for students of color and indigenous and LGBTQ+ students. Federal benefit programs can help students cover these expenses, yet they remain underutilized. Nationally, nearly 2 million students who are eligible for SNAP do not participate, leaving an estimated $3 billion in benefits unused.
College administrators across the country hold data that correspond with eligibility for several benefit programs. In January 2022, the U.S. Department of Education encouraged institutions to use Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) data to inform students of benefit programs they may be eligible for, yet many institutions struggle to know which of their students may be eligible. Multiple barriers – lack of awareness, confusing eligibility requirements, and complicated application processes – keep available financial resources from reaching students.
“Streamlining access to public benefits can deliver hundreds of dollars each month to students, helping them stay in school and graduate,” said Pauline Abernathy, Chief Strategy Officer, Benefits Data Trust. “We are proud to partner with college administrators in Maryland to connect eligible students to untapped benefits that can increase student achievement, persistence and graduation rates.”
ABOUT BENEFITS DATA TRUST
Benefits Data Trust (BDT) improves health and financial security by harnessing the power of data, technology, and policy to provide dignified and equitable access to assistance. Together with a national network of government agencies and partners, we efficiently connect people today to programs that pay for food, healthcare, and more while helping to modernize benefits access for tomorrow. A nonprofit since 2005, BDT has secured more than $9 billion in benefits for households across the country, helping to reduce hunger and poverty and build pathways to economic mobility. Learn more at www.bdtrust.org.