Financial aid program cut

Grant to support Single Stop ends, students without resource

By Editorial Board

Students at Contra Costa College faced with economic barriers will no longer be able to go to Single Stop USA to receive financial or legal support because the $74,000 grant ended at the end of the spring 2015 semester.

Since 2012, Single Stop has worked with students as a nonprofit organization that provides people living in economic poverty the opportunity to receive financial help and legal advice while going to college.

The Advocate agrees that the college did what it could to keep the program serving its students by attaching it to CalWORKs and using grant monies to pay half of its operational costs.

But the lack of foresight and planning involved trying to get a replacement program at the college by the time the contract with Single Stop expired to provide a smooth transition is appalling — especially so if you consider the student population it serves.

During the three years that Single Stop served the college, the state approved about $7.85 million in Board of Governor Fee Waivers for students at CCC based on income standards according to the California Community College Chancellor’s Office Financial Aid Summary Report, which can be found on its website using the DataMart search engine.

And this does not take into account the other five methods a student who is taking 12 or more units can be approved to have unit fees waived by the state, which according to DataMart totals about $10.7 million since 2012.

While the BOG waiver is not directly connected with Single Stop, the amount of money granted to the college to pay off these institutional unit costs shows people in CCC’s service area, which spans from Kensington to Pinole, need financial help.

Teresea Archaga, former Single Stop manager, said most students came to the office when their financial aid fell through or needed help with their taxes.

According to DataMart, about half of CCC’s 6,500 students use the BOG waiver every semester since Single Stop joined the college. That is a lot of students who will have one less place on campus to get help if their financial aid falls through.

Dean of Student Services Vicki Ferguson said that discussions to replace Single Stop with SparkPoint, another nonprofit organization that provides legal and financial help, have only recently begun.

It is good the college is considering replacing the program, but the longer the college is without Single Stop, or a program like it, then thousands of students who need financial support and/or advice will have one less resource.

Further, it is a shame this discussion has only now begun considering that during Single Stop’s second year serving students at CCC it was clear that the program could not sustain itself. Why did the college fail to look for a similar program able to fund its operational costs two years ago?

Not having this discussion earlier while knowing the program would soon be unable to stay active is a disservice to the students who want to go to college but need financial help.