• SNAP-Based Grant Program Helps MHCC’s Most Vulnerable Students

    A study by the Wisconsin HOPE Lab examined the food and housing conditions of students from 70 U.S. community colleges, among them Mt. Hood Community College. Last March, the study revealed that 1 in 8 students at MHCC have experienced or currently experience homelessness, and that 1 in 3 community college students experiences some form of food insecurity.


    MHCC is working to support some of its most vulnerable students through its involvement in the Community College STEP (SNAP Training and Employment Program) Consortium. Established October 2016, the consortium currently includes six community colleges (MHCC, Portland Community College, Chemeketa, Klamath, Lane and Linn-Benton), but will expand to encompass more Oregon community colleges this October. The eventual goal for the consortium is to include all 17 Oregon community colleges.

    Consortium members use funds from a federal match grant administered by the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service – and at the state level by the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) – to support students eligible for Supplemental Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, also known as food stamps. The consortium maintains a five-year contract with the Oregon DHS, with the first year ending this October. Consortium colleges receive a 50 percent match in grant funding for expenses used to support students from families eligible for SNAP but ineligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits.

    During the first year, more than 60 MHCC students have participated in the grant program so far. Student participants receive financial support – in the form of funding for tuition, fees and books; bus passes/tickets and gas cards; and emergency funding for housing, childcare, vehicle maintenance and similar expenses – based on individual need and funding availability. Some students have full financial aid and receive college navigation and coaching through STEP, but little to no financial support. The STEP program uses MHCC’s career, academic and job search support services to deliver effective college navigation and coaching instruction.

    The grant program is rooted in the Career Pathway model, which allows students to earn stackable certificates in a year or less as they advance to a job and/or degree. Student participants must also complete at least one employment and training activity and engage in college navigation and coaching. MHCC works with community partners to leverage additional resources for these students too.

    “Our students receiving SNAP benefits often have rather unique situations,” said Bhaktirose Dawdy, STEP grant coordinator. “They frequently work full time, perhaps have children at home, and many are just getting by. The support they receive from this grant can often make the difference between staying in school and completing a degree or certificate versus dropping out due to a lack of financial resources.”

    Current and prospective MHCC students can receive additional information about the STEP grant program – including eligibility requirements – by emailing Bhaktirose Dawdy at bhaktirose.dawdy@mhcc.edu.

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    Stephanie English (left), an MHCC Learning Specialist based in the Learning Success Center (Library third floor), works with STEP program participant Erika Cardenas in the AVID Center.