LaGuardia Community College Receives Grant to Connect Students with Public Benefits


Long Island City, NY – This fall, LaGuardia Community College will join six other colleges nationwide that are testing new strategies to help students complete college by integrating public benefit screening and application assistance into the college’s existing services and supports.

The College will work with the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) and the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) to implement one of several models being tested in the Benefits Access for College Completion (BACC) initiative. The three-year $4.84 million initiative will receive funding from the Ford Foundation, Kresge Foundation, Lumina Foundation, and the Open Society Foundations. The Annie E. Casey Foundation is also contributing to the initiative. 

BACC will help low-income students connect to coordinated income supports including child care subsidies and food assistance. The initiative will be evaluated to see if low-income students who receive coordinated income supports stay in school longer and complete their studies more quickly. Public supports and refundable tax credits can help low-income students bridge the gap between financial aid and the resources needed to attend college. The initiative’s aim is to help students complete their studies swiftly and successfully and move into jobs earning family-sustaining wages so they will be less likely to need such supports in the future.

“The initiative is a bold, creative approach to help financially troubled students get the benefits they need, potentially helping them graduate,” said Dr. Gail O. Mellow, President of LaGuardia Community College.  ”Our country must graduate more students from college and this initiative may well prove to be a needed ingredient to help us achieve this most important national priority.”  

According to David Croft, LaGuardia’s project director, the College’s BACC team will work with students, faculty and staff to launch a pilot project with a targeted group of students.  The project will create an extensive, campus-wide awareness of public benefits and access and intensively reach out to students in targeted programs, and directly assist them and their families in applying for various benefits.  Throughout the students’ experience at the college, their progress will be tracked.

“Upon gathering its findings,” said Mr. Croft, “the team will then analyze the data to determine the effect of benefits access activities on retention and graduation rates and based upon these outcomes determine how to best integrate and permanently support these unique services for the entire student population at LaGuardia.”

“We applaud these colleges for taking an informed and proactive look at how they can help those students most in need of financial and public support to pursue their college and career goals while dealing with work and family pressures,” said AACC President Walter G. Bumphus.  “These benefits, including health insurance, food, and child care, as well as financial aid, can help them to complete credentials and get into well-paying jobs.”

“In today’s economy, it’s more important than ever that students have the supports to earn a higher education so they can land better jobs and support their families,” said Evelyn Ganzglass, Director of Workforce Development at CLASP. “Rising college costs mean an education is increasingly out of reach for millions. By combining traditional student financial aid with public supports, students are better positioned to get by and complete their education. And when more students earn credentials, more employers have the skilled workers they need, and the labor market is able to stay competitive.”

The other colleges selected for the BACC implementation phase are: Cuyahoga Community College (OH), Gateway Community and Technical College (KY), Northampton Community College (PA), Skyline College (CA).  Macomb Community College and Lake Michigan College also will participate and share perspectives from similar work in Michigan.

“These institutions have stepped up with new and creative ideas to meet the financial needs of low-income college students,” said Ford Foundation Program Officer Chauncy Lennon. “This initiative will offer a space for experimentation to test whether delivering these supports on campus will ultimately increase the number of students who complete credentials, become skilled workers and succeed in our economy.”

The pilot period for this initiative will last from the fall 2012 semester through 2014, after which BACC will share the most successful strategies and lessons learned with policymakers and other community colleges nationwide to improve retention and credential completion.

LaGuardia Community College located in Long Island City, Queens, was founded in 1971 as a bold experiment in opening the doors of higher education to all, and we proudly carry forward that legacy today. LaGuardia educates students through over 50 degree, certificate and continuing education programs, providing an inspiring place for students to achieve their dreams. Upon graduation, LaGuardia students’ lives are transformed as family income increases 17%, and students transfer to four-year colleges at three times the national average. Part of the City University of New York (CUNY), LaGuardia is a nationally recognized leader among community colleges for boundary-breaking success educating underserved students. At LaGuardia we imagine new ideas, create new curriculum and pioneer programs to make our community and our country stronger. Visit to learn more.

The Center for Law and Social Policy develops and advocates for policies at the federal, state and local levels that improve the lives of low income people. We focus on policies that strengthen families and create pathways to education and work. Through careful research and analysis and effective advocacy, we develop and promote new ideas, mobilize others, and directly assist governments and advocates to put in place successful strategies that deliver results that matter to people across America. For more information, please visit or follow @CLASP_DC.

The American Association of Community Colleges is the leading national association representing the nation’s close to 1,200 community, junior and technical colleges and their more than 13 million students. Community colleges are the largest and fastest growing sector of higher education, currently enrolling almost half of all U.S. undergraduates. For more information on AACC and community colleges, visit

The Ford Foundation is an independent, nonprofit grant-making organization. For 75 years it has worked with courageous people on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. With headquarters in New York, the foundation has offices in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. For more information, visit

Based in metropolitan Detroit, The Kresge Foundation is a $3 billion private foundation that seeks to influence the quality of life for future generations through its support of nonprofit organizations working in its seven program areas: Arts and Culture, Community Development, Detroit, Education, the Environment, Health, and Human Services.  Fostering greater access to and success in postsecondary education for low-income, minority and first-generation college students is the focus of Kresge’s Education grantmaking. In 2011, Kresge awarded more than $22 million in grants to support higher education in the United States and South Africa, with half benefiting U.S. community colleges.  For more information, please visit or follow @kresgedu.

Lumina Foundation, an Indianapolis-based private foundation, is committed to enrolling and graduating more students from college—especially 21st century students: low-income students, students of color, first-generation students and adult learners.  Lumina’s goal is to increase the percentage of Americans who hold high-quality degrees and credentials to 60 percent by 2025.  Lumina pursues this goal in three ways: by identifying and supporting effective practice, through public policy advocacy, and by using our communications and convening power to build public will for change. For more information, log on to

Active in more than 70 countries, the Open Society Foundations work to build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens. Working with local communities, the Open Society Foundations support justice and human rights, freedom of expression, and access to public health and education. For more information, visit

The Annie E. Casey Foundation is a private charitable organization, whose primary mission is to foster public policies, human-service reforms, and community supports that more effectively meet the needs of today’s vulnerable children and families. For more information, visit