With locations throughout Fairfield and New Haven counties, Wells Fargo is taking innovative steps to support students in need in the communities it serves. In a first-of-its-kind grant, the leading financial services company is teaming up with the CT State Colleges & Universities Foundation to support three CT State Community Colleges with $75,000 for equity-based support services for scholars attending Norwalk, Housatonic and Gateway Community Colleges.
Equity-based programs address the complex and urgent challenges of at-risk students. Through a variety of resources and tools, concrete solutions to narrowing achievement gaps and creating pathways to opportunity and academic excellence with equity are defined.
Improved student retention and increased graduation rates for vulnerable student populations are a hallmark of equity-based educational programming. All three of the colleges offer successful programs. At Gateway Community College in New Haven, the Equity in Education Fund provides students with critical wraparound support services early in their academic career. Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport supports low-income female students with dependents through its Family Economic Security Program (FESP). At Norwalk Community College, the UPLIFT program seeks to close the equity gap for men of color.
“Community colleges play a vital role in educating students for the workforce and Wells Fargo is proud to be able to support these three important institutions in Connecticut,” said Terence Floyd, Wells Fargo Vice President and Community Relations Consultant. “We look forward to partnering on this initiative as well others supporting minority students.”
This move embraces the new CT State Community College structure that will include one institution with 12 campuses organized into three regions. Gateway, Norwalk and Housatonic comprise the Shoreline West region. This is the first time that the Wells Fargo Foundation has presented a grant through the CSCU Foundation to benefit multiple campuses within a region. In 2020, the Wells Fargo Foundation donated to each of these three campuses directly to boost emergency funds for students impacted by COVID 19, but this is the first time that the CSCU Foundation will act as fiduciary. As Connecticut's 12 community colleges are merged into one accredited institution, other funders may follow suit to make a wider impact.
“We are grateful to the Wells Fargo Foundation for their funding to help sustain and enhance our most under-resourced students to gain access to a quality education and to achieve their educational dreams,” said Dr. Thomas Coley, Regional President of the Shoreline West Region of CT State Community Colleges. “The funds will allow our campuses to support students when “life gets in the way” barriers occur. This support will truly make a difference in the lives of our students and will have an impact across the entire region.”
Students who participate in these programs can attest to their impact. Jenny P., a graduate and past participant in Housatonic’s FESP program, stated “FESP helped me plan out my two years at college to make sure that I succeeded. I want to be a good example to children…I want them to be able to achieve their dreams like I did, and without FESP, I wouldn’t have managed it.”
Programs like FESP and other equity-based programs are supported via each college’s foundation. Last year, the 12 foundations that support the individual community colleges across the state dispersed close to $6.3 million to help students, programs, events, and other initiatives including more than $3.9 million in student scholarships. Additionally, the CSCU Foundation provided nearly $5,000 in scholarship funding to community college students.
The impact of COVID-19 intensified the need for these programs and their services. Under-resourced scholars were more vulnerable during the pandemic, and as basic needs insecurity among these students rose, academic challenges, such as access to technology and childcare, escalated. Gateway, Housatonic and Norwalk Community College Foundations continue to take extraordinary steps to help under-resourced students recover from these circumstances.
To learn more about supporting equity-based programs at Connecticut’s community colleges, please contact the CSCU Foundation at www.ct.edu/foundation or call 860-723-0000.