Today, First Lady Frances Wolf visited Bucks County Community College (BCCC) and joined students and staff for a discussion on college hunger. First Lady Wolf addressed the growing need for resources for students experiencing food and basic needs in security and discussed Governor Tom Wolf’s proposed $1 million investment to address college hunger and $200 million investment to create the Nellie Bly Scholarship Program in the 2022-23 state budget.
“Too many college students are overworked and underserved as they pursue futures that can benefit all of Pennsylvania,” said First Lady Wolf. “With proposals like the Hunger-Free Campus initiative and Nellie Bly, we have an opportunity to alleviate the burden of hunger for the students who need it most and help them pay for the stifling costs of higher education.”
An estimated 36% of students know someone who dropped out of college due to food insecurity during the pandemic. Roughly 52% of students who faced food or housing insecurity in 2020 did not apply for support because they did not know how.
First Lady Wolf toured the BCCC campus, learning about how the college is addressing the basic needs of its students with programs like Keystone Education Yields Success (KEYS). Funded by the PA Department of Human Services (DHS) at PA’s community colleges, KEYS assists students who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) in their pursuit of post-secondary education by:
· Providing career counseling, tutoring and academic support, including help with financial aid;
· Facilitating supportive services, such as child care, textbooks, and transportation assistance, available through the County Assistance Office (CAO) and/or the College; and
Connecting students to other community service agencies.
Additionally, BCCC has developed a Gift Card Program that empowers students in need to make their own food choices, and “standing pantries,” which are conveniently placed across campus and stocked with food and toiletries.
Following the tour, Mrs. Wolf joined students and staff for a discussion on college hunger. She shared the governor’s budget proposals to confront the substantial costs of college and food insecurity among college students, encouraging the college community to contact their elected officials and urge them to act on the behalf of Pennsylvania’s students.
“Part of Bucks County Community College’s mission is to provide innovative pathways that inspire educational, professional, and personal fulfillment,” said BCCC Interim Dean of Students Dr. Dekia Smith. “We recognize that whether it’s food insecurity, homelessness, or the need for emergency funds, many of our students do not have what they need to meet their higher education goals. The Governor’s proposal to Swipe Out Hunger would support our work to ensure an accessible, equitable, and supportive experience for our students. We are excited to be a part of this groundbreaking and transformative initiative.”
In his 2022-23 budget, Governor Wolf proposed $1 million to create the Hunger-Free Campus grant program. This program would help colleges and universities set up or expand food pantries, increase SNAP outreach and education, improve data gathering on this issue, and support any other project that could meet the needs of hungry students on campus. Colleges and universities are also encouraged to become a COMPASS Community Partner, which facilitates connecting students to a range of support and assistance.
Additionally, Governor Wolf has proposed $200 million for the Nellie Bly Scholarship Program, a needs-based scholarship that would support equitable access to and enrollment in Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) schools and Pennsylvania’s community colleges. The scholarship would support student tuition and filling the gaps for the true costs of attendance. The scholarship also addresses critical workforce needs in the state by prioritizing students pursuing programs in healthcare, education, and public service. Students who take advantage of the program must stay in Pennsylvania to live and work for the same amount of time they receive the scholarship benefit.
Photos from the First Lady’s visit can be found at www.pacast.com.