By Omar Woodard, Executive Director, GreenLight Fund Philadelphia
Recently, I had the opportunity to moderate a panel discussion at the Community College of Philadelphia (CCP) and reflect on GreenLight’s first, and most successful, investment in Philadelphia.
In 2013, the six-year graduation rate for associate degrees at CCP was 17.5 percent. GreenLight Fund recognized this as a critical barrier to economic mobility for tens of thousands of Philadelphians and searched nationally for the best solution to address this need. That solution was Single Stop.
By screening students for eligible benefits and support services, and working with students to obtain them, Single Stop recognized that what keeps students with low-incomes from success are often non-academic barriers – basic needs – such as access to childcare, healthcare, and food. With the help of a Social Innovation Fund grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), GreenLight Fund invested over $1M in Single Stop’s expansion to Philadelphia.
With investment from and partnership with CCP, Single Stop began connecting students to services in 2013. Since then, more than 11,000 students have been screened receiving more than $22M in eligible benefits and resources.
The panel discussion at CCP unveiled the results of a rigorous, multi-year external evaluation of students who benefited from Single Stop, conducted by Metis Associates. The findings are impressive – “spanning three-and-a-half academic years – students had statistically significantly higher GPAs, higher ratios of completed to attempted degree bearing credits, and higher rates of persistence than matched groups of similarly situated students.”
Panel participants, J. Noah Brown, President of the Association of Community College Trustees, Dr. Samuel Hirsch, Vice President for Academic and Student Success at CCP, Single Stop Philadelphia Project Director Paula Umaña, and a CCP student, Melissa Aponte, spoke about the day to day workings of the program that leads to making college completion possible for so many students at CCP. Paula explained that Single Stop “creates the village” of partnerships and resources, and provides a safe space for students to learn about solutions to reduce the barriers preventing them from succeeding in school. Melissa credited Single Stop for her ability to graduate, “(Single Stop) referred me to other programs”, for example, “legal services to get my benefits back on when they were cut off.” She also explained, “(I) can’t bring my son to biology lab”, and Single Stop helped her obtain a daycare voucher for her son. Melissa’s advice for others, “Connect with people, network, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.”