City University of New York (CUNY) community colleges now offer their students a unique antipoverty tool that can help them to remain in school.
Hostos and Bronx Community College, two branches of CUNY in the Bronx, have partnered with Single Stop USA, an innovative national nonprofit organization that is dedicated to helping people access billions of dollars in untapped government resources.
Eligible students can qualify for cash and noncash benefits to buy groceries, pay for child care and get health insurance – in as little as 15 minutes. Single Stop connects students with benefits counseling, legal and financial advice and tax preparation, all free and all in the same place.
Recent studies have shown that almost half of those who enroll in community colleges drop out because of the high financial barriers they face, often because they are older than traditional college students, work one or more jobs, and must support their entire families.
To surmount these hurdles, Single Stop provides its proven “one-stop-shop” approach that goes beyond tuition aid to deliver tax credits and refunds, food stamps and other vital support.
“Single Stop is right here for what you need to stay in school,” said Carlos B, a 32-year-old Hostos student studying forensic science. A father and a veteran, he received food stamps and other benefits through Single Stop’s Hostos officeosHH. “This is a beautiful thing. I love this program.”
In 2009, Hostos was one of three pilot sites that helped nearly 1,000 students access benefits and services valued at over $1 million. Roughly half of these students took advantage of Single Stop’s free tax preparation services and received federal refunds that averaged $1,500 –an amount equal to 15 percent of their average household income. Studies have shown that as little as $300 in benefits can permit a hard-working but financially strapped student to remain in school en route to an associate degree or certificate.
This summer, Single Stop opened an office at Bronx Community College along with all the other CUNY two-year schools.
During tax season, students and other low-income individuals can take advantage of free tax preparation from Single Stop volunteer financial advisers at numerous locations, including three offices of Ariva (CheckSpring on E. 167th St., NYC Small Business Services on E. 149th Street and University Neighborhood Housing Program in Refuge House on Bainbridge Ave.).
About Single Stop USA
Single Stop has been a pioneer in connecting low-income people with life-changing benefits and resources they may not have known existed. First, in a brief interview, a Single Stop counselor uses the organization’s cutting-edge software to determine a person’s eligibility for a wide range of basic benefits. Then, the counselor follows up by helping the client with the maze of applications.
An outgrowth of a New York City pilot program begun in 2001 with funding from the Robin Hood Foundation, Single Stop USA incorporated in 2007 in order to expand nationwide, and has grown 700 percent since then. In 2009, its sites in five states helped 120,000 families access roughly $320 million in benefits and services.
With national headquarters in East Harlem, Single Stop also offers low-income families the same vital benefits and services at 13 Bronx sites within neighborhood organizations, health clinics and other facilities, including BronxWorks on the Concourse and CUCS in Crotona.
“Single Stop gives families who juggle community college, work and kids the extra support they need before they have to choose between staying in school and making ends meet,” said Elisabeth Mason, CEO of Single Stop USA.
For more information visit Single Stop USA at www,singlestopusa.org or call them at: 212-480-2870.