GHC is trying to serve students in a way that goes beyond financial aid.
Referred to as BFA, the Beyond Financial Aid initiative is part of the University System of Georgia’s Complete College Georgia plan, which is an effort to help raise the graduation rate of college students in Georgia. BFA works to identify and fill the gap between students’ financial aid and what it really costs them to stay in college.
“Federal financial aid is a wonderful blessing of many college students. It allows them to attend college and afford courses, textbooks and, in some cases, housing. But some students have additional impediments to their education. These may be financial or they may affect other facets of their lives.,” said GHC President Donald Green.
According to Jesse Bishop, director of the college’s Center for Excellence and Learning and a member of GHC’s Complete College Georgia team, Beyond Financial Aid’s purpose is to help colleges like GHC identify obstacles and resources to help students get past their financial barriers.
GHC has acquired a six-step BFA toolkit through the partnership of the USG and the Lumina Foundation.
The toolkit will help Highlands’ review, update, reorganize and streamline the internal processes of the college that can help students graduate quicker and provide that information to faculty.
For example, GHC is currently focusing on partnering with high schools and community organizations to create FASFA days. It is also focusing on understanding and revising the process for emergency assistance for low-income students.
Student Support Services currently offers a food pantry at each GHC campus that Bishop says may become part of the BFA effort.
It has also identified resources in the community of each GHC campus that students can be referred to depending on their needs. These resources include local food pantries, shelters, crisis centers and more.
“I would encourage Georgia Highlands students to utilize all the services and resources that are available at college while they’re here,” said Angela Wheelus, director of Student Support Services.
Todd Jones, vice president of student affairs and dean of Floyd Campus, said “Beyond Financial Aid refers to services funding whatever the students may need that go beyond the typical process to pay for college, kind of meeting Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.”
Jones said, “Georgia Highlands College understands the value of a college education, especially for this generation of students.
A high school diploma is not enough anymore. And we want to do as much as we can to help students be successful. And sometimes that means going above and beyond and assisting students with the other issues that are impacting their ability to be successful. We just want to do what we can to remove as many barriers as possible.”