Nearly 70% of Austin Community College District (ACC) students say they live in some kind of financial stress. It’s a challenge college students across the nation are facing.
“The country needs a beacon of light to show them a transformative institution. To do this, we need to ask ourselves if we have the right structures and support outside the classroom that make it easier for students to focus on what happens inside the classroom,” says ACC Chancellor, Dr. Russell Lowery-Hart.
ACC recently expanded three student support centers — a Welcome Center, Student Life Lounge, and Student Care Center — at the ACC Highland Campus. The expansions are the first phase of what will be a districtwide roll out to enhance direct support for students. The centers connect students to resources at the college and within the community that can help them stay on track, like advising, counseling, housing, food, child care, legal aid, and more.
“We need to build scaled systems and policies to ensure our students have access to these resources across the district. ACC will create these centers across our district for the way our students need them to be. When we remove the dual credit students, our data shows the average age of an ACC student is 26. These students need different support than those coming to us right out of high school.”
Up next, ACC will track what is working to scale these programs across the region. The next two expansions will roll out at campuses in the North and South regions.
The work happening at ACC to better meet students’ life needs is being talked about nationwide.
“When we reopened these spaces, we didn’t do any advertising at the beginning and had more than 1,100 guests come for support at the Welcome Center alone in just the first 45 days,” says David Zuniga, ACC Welcome Centers Director. “These services are critical to ensuring our guests’ and students’ needs are met. I have been working with guests who completed their final enrolment steps, including course registration, and with students who say they haven’t been able to eat in two days. Like colleagues across our district, I have given my lunch or bought lunch for those in need. These new centers help assist those seeking upward mobility through education, and from time to time help meet their needs that go beyond academics.”
“Everything affects how we work academically. Everything in our lives will affect how we are as students. If a college isn’t really paying attention to what we need, we can decline, drop out, or just not be able to finish when we really want to. ACC is speaking to us with these centers,” says Brianna Butler, ACC Student Care Center employee.
As Dr. Lowery-Hart continues his first 100 days at the college, he wants to hear directly from students on changes they need to succeed. The college hosts a series of student focus groups and virtual town hall meetings to hear directly from students about their experiences, challenges, and needs.
For more information and to RSVP to join the conversations, students may visit austincc.edu/focusgroups.Back to Top