Broad Array of Services Include Legal Help, Financial Assistance, and Tax Advice
Roxbury Community College students, like their counterparts in other community colleges nationwide, often arrive with a complex set of needs that stretch beyond the classroom and labs where learning takes place. Such needs may range from understanding how the tax system works to more serious issues such as receiving an eviction notice or experiencing domestic violence. They all impact students to some degree and several have the crippling effect of causing students to leave college.
Now the partnership between RCC and Single Stop USA will allow students to tap into a wide range of free non-academic support services aimed at identifying resources, solving problems, and keeping students enrolled at the College.
Lisa Carter was recently named Director of Academic and Student Support (Single Stop) at RCC. “It is a new initiative that will help us keep students in school,” Ms. Carter said of the Single Stop Program. “Simply put there are many challenges that our students face,” Ms. Carter added. “There are things that impact our students’ ability to attend college and be successful. So Single Stop is designed to provide non-academic support,” she explained.
Among the critical free services RCC students can expect from Single Stop includes financial advice, how to handle credit and debt issues, how to manage a budget and so forth. Students who are facing housing eviction or who are embroiled in child custody battles or who have questions regarding their immigration status can receive free legal help through Single Stop.
Based in New York, Single Stop USA was established in 2007 by Elisabeth Mason, its CEO and one of Single Stop USA’s founders. Ms. Mason, a lawyer who formerly worked on Wall Street and as a children’s rights advocate, wanted to create a non-profit that uses existing resources and infrastructure to restart the engine of American mobility.
A statement on Single Stop’s Website says that “To ensure a holistic approach to the multitude of barriers that students face, Single Stop provides colleges with the resources, training, technology, and technical support to facilitate comprehensive case management, benefits access, legal counseling, tax preparation and, critically, financial coaching to address issues like debt management, budgeting and credit clean-up. All services are free to students.”
Ms. Carter said that if students are “not applying and budgeting their money, it just goes out the window.”
Ms. Carter noted that students may also be eligible to receive certain benefits such as Medicaid, child care support, and food stamps. To determine if a student is eligible to receive benefits, a free benefits screening will be offered using a Web-based software program called Benefits Network (BEN). A student, in need of a specific service, would go to the Single Stop Office, and present detailed information to a Single Stop coach. That information is logged into BEN and organizations in the Boston area that handle the student’s specific need are identified.
“Let’s say a student is in need of legal aid to stop an eviction,” Ms. Carter explained, “we’ll put you in touch with lawyers who handle evictions.” She underscored that Single Stop will offer “real counsel right here at RCC” where students can meet with a real lawyer. A lawyer, for example, would offer a certain amount of advertised hours per week to meet with students to give real legal advice on the spot. Single Stop will also offer personal counseling service for students in need of counseling referrals. “We want to be able to get students in touch with people who can help them right now,” she emphasized.
Single Stop’s Website states among its goals are:
- To preserve dignity while asking for help
- To convert information into action
- To transform access into opportunity
At a meeting to be held later this month, members of RCC staff and faculty will meet with representatives of Single Stop USA for an informational session. Ms. Carter will receive additional technology training in preparation of the official launch of RCC’s Single Stop. Even without an official opening, Single Stop at RCC has garnered some attention, in large part, Ms. Carter thinks, because of an article about Single Stop that appeared in RCC’s CareerFocus Magazine. For example, she has received an inquiry from a counselor at Rosie’s Place, a shelter for homeless women.
Roxbury Community College will join some 113 Single Stop sites across the country including community colleges in seven states. “The word is out,” Ms. Carter said. “People are realizing
that it is not just academics that prevent people from returning to school.”
Ms. Carter, in highlighting the meaning and importance of Single Stop said, “When we say Single Stop, we mean it is where students can come and get the help you need without having to travel all around the state to try and find those resources.”
Ted Thomas | July 3, 2014
Lisa R. Carter
Director, Academic and Student Support- Single Stop
Administration Building (2), Room 101