College offers more than financial help to students in need

Illustration By Danie Clawson | The Ranger

February 8,2012

By Joel Hulsey |Ranger Reporter

AMARILLO COLLEGE is stepping up this semester to help students who live in poverty.

With the rising number of poverty-line students enrolled at AC this semester, the board of regents is doing everything possible to make college life a positive experience.

Earlier this semester, AC became the first college in the nation to be named a No Excuses campus.

No Excuses is a program created by Achieving the Dream, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to boosting student success. The movement was launched at AC last semester, supported by pre-existing and new programs designed to help students from all backgrounds succeed.

The program focuses on providing aid to low-income students and improving student retention and graduation rates, according to AC’s pledge at www.achievingthedream.org.

The No Excuses Specialty Coaches program was added this semester to the list of services already offered to help students living in poverty.

“Ideally, it will work in a way for students,” said Robert Austin, vice president of student affairs.

Using a brand new management model that specializes in providing online help, students will be able to visit a No Excuses coach and use any resources available to help fix problems at hand.

One major goal the college is aiming for is to solve transportation issues.

“How are students supposed to go to school without transportation?” Austin said.

“If a student were to have a brake light go out and have no money available to fix the problem, the No Excuses coach would simply enter the information on the new management model and the student would be directed to whichever group at one of Amarillo College’s multiple campuses or in the community that could help solve the issue.”

Because the new model uses the community in addition to on-campus help, Austin said he believes it is a step in the right direction to help students who are struggling financially.

“It’s not just about scholarships,” he said.

Even with the services available, Austin said students do not have to be living in poverty to receive financial aid.

If a student needs help, AC will provide support regardless of a student’s financial situation.

“We just need to connect you,” Austin said.

Another option available for students who are struggling is becoming part of a focus group the college began last spring.

Led by Dr. Judith Carter, an English professor, the group focuses on student success and students’ roles at AC. The focus group will continue this semester.

Drug and alcohol counseling also are offered for any AC student who is in critical care for the service. AC pays for the first six visits.

Despite the availability of the services, Austin said he believes the number of poverty-line students is much higher than the official numbers portray.

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