Replacement financial aid program stalls in hiring task

By Mike Thomas, Scene Editor

SparkPoint, a nonprofit organization that helps students pay for necessary expenses, is in the final processes of partnering with Contra Costa College as a replacement for Single Stop USA.

The financial coaching program that is replacing Single Stop — which ended during the spring 2015 semester due to a lack of funding — needs to hire a coordinator for the program before it can open for student use SparkPoint Site Director Betty Cantrell said.

While similar to Single Stop, SparkPoint has a different approach to help students who struggle to pay for college.

“SparkPoint has a different focus than Single Stop,” EOPS/CARE & CalWORKs Manager George Mills said. “It’s more one-on-one counseling and financial coaching.”

Former CCC Single Stop Manager Teresea Archaga said the nonprofit organization provided students living in poverty in its services area opportunities to make their living situation better through grants and financial workshops.

“Single Stop is a way of supporting students through financial barriers by providing coaching and legal services for students,” Archaga said. “I made things easier for students who were struggling financially.”

Cantrell said, “Students in (SparkPoint) will receive financial education to help students with their goals and where they stand with their credit score.”

She said there are 13 SparkPoint centers across California and two of them are in the career centers of colleges.

SparkPoint has been at Skyline College since 2010 providing students with a lot of services on campus, Skyline Interim Program Director Chad Thompson said.

“Our benefit office helps with food stamps, medical insurance and screening,” Thompson said. “It used to be more difficult when we didn’t have a division for benefits (at Skyline).”

He said other benefits include access to a free food pantry and assistance with getting jobs on or off campus. 

“We have a food pantry with fresh produce and canned goods, so students can do a little grocery ‘shopping’ around here,” he said.

“We have a career related support system, meaning we help students get jobs and help with writing their resumes.”

According to, more than 46 million people in the United States live in poverty and the group provides services for them.

Before Single Stop had to latch onto another program to stay active, it assisted students at CCC for three years through similar means until it ceased operations during the spring 2015 semester, Archaga said.