- Associated Press - Thursday, February 4, 2016

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota State Colleges and Universities is putting an emphasis on addressing basic human needs in hopes of improving results for its growing proportion of low-income students.

The assistance provided by the state’s largest higher education system includes everything from work-study jobs and housing referrals to cash for child care and on-campus food banks, the St. Paul Pioneer Press (https://bit.ly/1NSbTgC ) reported. Many of the system’s 31 schools also have retrained some staff and faculty on how to interact with students facing poverty.

“When students come from a background of poverty, there is this shift that they need to make in struggling to survive day by day to planning for their future. It takes time to make that change,” said An Garagiola, a student at Century College in White Bear Lake, where she received help securing a work-study job.

Around 390,000 students are enrolled in Minnesota State Colleges and Universities.

More than one-third of the system’s students are eligible for income-based federal Pell Grants, compared to less than one-fourth of its students a decade ago.

Minnesota State Colleges and Universities is starting to view poverty as a problem its leaders must address because “this is Minnesota’s future workforce,” said Chancellor Steven Rosenstone.

Rosenstone recently organized poverty training for Minnesota State Colleges and Universities’ board of trustees, college and university presidents and central office workers. At the meeting last month, he asked school leaders to consider low-income students a priority as they update campus diversity plans in the coming months.

Rosenstone wants the system’s schools to expand services for needy students and revise procedures to help those students succeed.

Last month, Century College converted a spare classroom into a student services center modeled after a resource at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, where students can find a free food shelf, legal services and referrals, and financial assistance for child care. The center at Century already has served students who are war veterans, widows and victims of domestic violence and drive-by shootings.

At Normandale Community College in Bloomington, where 62 percent of students are Pell-eligible, low-income students also have access to a food pantry, along with cash for emergency child care and a range of other programs designed to help them stay enrolled.

“We have recognized that it is not an inner-city problem, it’s an everybody problem,” Normandale President Joyce Ester said.

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Information from: St. Paul Pioneer Press, https://www.twincities.com

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