Federal Grant Will Help This Alabama Community College Address Food, Housing Insecurity

The Department of Education awarded Northwest-Shoals Community College a $950,000, three-year grant that will help support at least 300 students.
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  • The $950,000, three-year grant will go toward a student resource center at Northwest-Shoals Community College.
  • That center will provide assistance with basic needs like housing and transportation.
  • The resource center will also provide mentoring, life coaching, and access to technology to students, as well as other support services.

The U.S. Department of Education is sending $950,000 to help support underserved students' basic needs at Northwest-Shoals Community College in Alabama.

The three-year grant will fund an Advocacy and Resource Center (ARC) at the Muscle Shoals school, according to a press release. The new resource center will help students with basic needs like housing and transportation assistance, childcare, and professional development.

The ARC will also include a food bank. School officials expect that the project will support at least 300 students across the college's campuses.

Northwest-Shoals President Jeff Goodwin said the new resource center will cut back on barriers that underserved students face.

"The importance of this Basic Needs Grant awarded to Northwest-Shoals Community College … for the individuals that it will serve cannot be overstated," Goodwin said. "It will not only impact those directly served by the grant but their families and communities as well by removing barriers associated [with] the issues of poverty and mental health and providing opportunities to enter the workforce with the skills essential to succeed."

Mentoring, life coaching, access to technology, and help with course software will also be part of the ARC's mission, according to the press release.

Community colleges are key access points to higher education and serve a significant number of students who are low-income or first-generation college students, according to a 2021 Brookings Institution report.

That report found that expanded student supports, like providing coaching and development resources to students, can boost both persistence and completion rates.

A 2022 report from the Center for Community College Student Engagement found that many community college students who needed help with food and housing weren't getting it from their institution, BestColleges previously reported.

Roughly 16% of students who responded to a spring 2021 survey said they needed help with food from their college. But less than half of those students indicated they were getting help from their college.

Of the 10% of students who said they needed help with housing, under a quarter said they were receiving assistance from their community college. Those needs were disproportionately high among historically underserved students.

Community colleges often provide food assistance to more than just their students, BestColleges previously reported. Many offer food banks and other support to fight food insecurity in their broader communities.