M State in Fergus Falls recently announced that it is one of 27 colleges selected throughout the nation to participate in the first #RealCollege Institutional Capacity-Building Cohort, made possible through the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice.

The goal of the program is to assist colleges and universities in retaining students who need food and housing support, and whose circumstances were made more vulnerable due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Hope Center, based at Temple University in Philadelphia, describes itself as “an action research center working to transform higher education into a more effective, equitable and impactful sector using applied scientific research, technical assistance, policy advising with state and federal governments and strategic communications.” 

Using data gathered through The Hope Center’s evidence-based research studies, M State will explore how to best serve students with food, housing and other vulnerabilities that make it more challenging to complete a degree. 

M State Dean of Students Shawn Anderson said in a press release that “colleges and universities across the country are realizing from their own student data that degree completion is much more than aptitude alone. When students experience insecurities in their basic needs, it hurts their ability to focus on their education.”

He also stated that the pandemic increased the number of people struggling to meet their basic needs, including students at M State. The program began this month and will run through May. Staff, faculty, administrators and students will all participate in the project. 

“Student support is more than access to federal and state financial aid programs and academic support — it’s supporting the whole student,” Anderson explained in the press release. “We’re committed to supporting students as they work to complete their degrees, and participating in this cohort will help us make informed decisions using the data we have and the data we’ll collect.”


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