Fairfield County women face the largest pay inequity and one of the highest costs of living in the nation. Comprehensive research conducted by Fairfield County’s Community Foundation’s Fund for Women & Girls in 2007 and 2013 identified economic security as the most critical and recurring need for women living in the county, particularly those who are single, working and have dependents.
Moreover, many students entering Connecticut’s community college system are not academically prepared. As a result of this lack of preparedness and financial hardship many students ‘stop out’ taking one or more semesters off.
Research has shown that completion of a bachelor’s degree, financial literacy, and supportive communities are key components to economic security in our region.
To help low-income female students juggling child care, work, college and family obligations, the Fund for Women & Girls initiated a partnership first with Norwalk Community College (NCC) and its Foundation and then with Housatonic Community College (HCC) and its Foundation to create and launch the Family Economic Security Program (FESP).
The Program is built on the successful 5-year pilot at NCC and provides intensive and comprehensive bundled services that address barriers to college completion.
FESP at Housatonic Community College
FESP at Housatonic Community College is built on a proven model and offers an expanded set of wraparound supports including workforce preparation, benefits screening, and financial services. The program helps students overcome challenges that many face; these challenges have the potential to derail students balancing the pressures of day-to-day living and attending college. This expanded iteration of FESP is open to students pursuing Associate Degrees or credit bearing certificates that lead to middle skills jobs. Students pursuing Associate Degrees are geared towards marketable degrees that lead to family sustaining careers.
FESP, launched in the fall of 2015, will serve a minimum of 400 students over four years. The program offers HCC students who are low-and moderate-income the necessary resources and tools needed to advance their education, career and economic security for their families. To date, FESP has served over 140 students and has a thirty percent higher retention rate than the college.
At a Glance
|Number of Students through Spring 2017 – 143 Students||FESP Retention Rate (Fall 2015-Fall 2016)||86%|
|Median Average age – 28 years||HCC Retention Rate (Fall 2015 – Fall 2016)||56%|
|Mean Average age – 32.4 years|
|FESP Course Completion Rate for 2015-2016||75.30%|
|HCC Course Completion Rates for 2015 -2016||67.70%|
|Total # of Graduates Fall 2015 through Spring 2017||27|
Five Key Components
|One-on-One Coaching: Academic, Personal, Career & Financial
Career Services: Assessments, Internships, Job Readiness
Financial Assistance: Scholarships, Emergency and Opportunity Funds, Credit Repair/Building
Income Supports: Benefits screening, Free Income Tax Preparation, Guidance on Family Tax Credits
Peer Support and Enrichment: Retreats, Personal Development Workshops, Family and Cultural Events
FESP at Norwalk Community College
FESP provided 106 low-and moderate-income students with comprehensive bundled services and supports including scholarships, intensive coaching, and peer-to-peer mentoring to help them persist and graduate. This five-year pilot program yielded successful outcomes and institutional changes including higher graduation rates, improved personal finances and asset building, and demonstrated positive multi-generational results.