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MSU Denver Launches Support Program for Lowest-Income Students


Thursday, June 10, 2021   

DENVER - Metropolitan State University of Denver is taking applications for a pilot program designed to help its lowest-income students access food, housing, child care, transportation and other supports to help students stay enrolled and complete degrees.

Will Simpkins, the university's vice president for student affairs, said the HOPES program can help prevent the single biggest reason students drop out of school: unanticipated financial obligations.

"Could be an unanticipated transportation bill, fixing a car," said Simpkins. "But it can be as little as an unanticipated $50 bill is enough, some national research says, to get a student off track."

The pilot program will be modest, working with 70 students that qualify for public assistance, but Simpkins noted that more than half of the school's 19,000-plus students could be eligible.

Case managers will help students navigate multiple layers of red tape to ensure that they can access and maintain benefits as they pursue their degrees. Students also will receive dedicated academic and career coaching.

Simpkins said ensuring that students' basic needs are met is essential for their success in the classroom and beyond; it's hard to focus on course material when you don't know where your next meal is coming from or where you will sleep that night.

He also pointed to research showing that people receiving government assistance who complete a college degree are much less likely to need public assistance later in life.

"In fact, there is a greater percentage of entire families moving out of generational poverty when that first generation gets that college degree," said Simpkins. "So that's what we're shooting for."

As the state's only open-access university, the goal is to expand the program to help more eligible students enroll, stay enrolled and earn college degrees.

Simpkins said students in far-off rural areas would also be able to participate, thanks in part to robust online learning programs developed during the pandemic.

Support for this reporting was provided by Lumina Foundation.

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