For Low-Income Students, a New Graduation Equation

May 17, 2018 12:25 PM ET
Article

Naffie Baldeh was 27 when she decided to go back to school. A single mother in the South Bronx, she’d been in and out of community colleges over the years as her family obligations and financial circumstances allowed.

Now, though, she was determined to try again. Pushing towards a liberal arts degree at Hostos Community College in the Bronx, Baldeh worked from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. as a pharmaceutical technician, followed by classes until 8 in the evening, sometimes staying awake until 5 the next morning as she studied and cared for her infant son. She was feeling the strain that comes with being a low-income student as her financial responsibilities—childcare, housing, the cost of school itself—competed with her academic ambitions.

Statistically, students like Baldeh are among those to leave school without a degree, often with significant debt. Fortunately, Hostos is like many other community colleges across the country seeking to help hard-working students reach graduation. The school’s Empowering Student Parents (ESP) program anticipated Baldeh’s needs and set her up with local childcare providers, assisted in helping her build her credit score and gave her access to workshops focused on budgeting and personal finance. “They helped me out a lot,” Baldeh says, “because they connected me with resources not only within the school, but also with what’s in my community.”

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