CNM Recognized for Innovation and Outcomes in Student Support Services

July 13, 2012
July 16, 2015

A study of 10 community colleges across the U.S. found that CNM Connect exemplifies the Center for Working Families approach to helping low-income families attain financial stability and move up the economic ladder. CNM was an innovator in this approach to student support and has been implementing and refining its service delivery since 2005. CNM is the only college studied where all students are deemed eligible to participate.

The report is titled Center for Working Families at Community Colleges: Clearing the Financial Barriers to Student Success and was published by MDC, a Durham, N.C.-based nonprofit. The research was underwritten by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and written by Cynthia D. Liston and Robert Donnan.

The Center for Working Families initiative bundles together three core service elements: employment and career advancement; income and work supports; and financial services and asset-building supports. At CNM, these support programs are housed within Student Services and Academic Affairs divisions and offered as a host of bundled, integrated services through the identity of CNM Connect .

Services through CNM Connect run the full gamut — from life coaching and learning strategies to personal financial planning and career-option exploration. The school also provides assistance accessing both scholarships and financial aid as well as non-academic benefit programs, and even childcare, legal assistance and emergency food and clothing.  

This holistic approach to student support at CNM was begun in 2005 with a generous contribution to the CNM Foundation to fund the Rust Scholarships — small scale emergency and gap funding designed to help students with immediate financial need that might lead to them dropping out. In addition to the Rust Scholarship, CNM has developed an impressive array of support from local and national philanthropies to support goal-setting, personal budgeting and other counseling and assistance.

By 2011, a variety of CWF-type programs were marshaled under the umbrella of CNM's innovative CNM Connect, which has proved adept at administering these services.

CNM Connect was the direct outgrowth of a grant from the M.W. Kellogg Foundation, and has also benefited directly from Kresge Foundation,  Bank of America Foundation, Citibank Foundation, McCunne Foundation, PNM Foundation, Wells Fargo, MDC, LISC,  Don Chalmers Ford and  the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The CNM approach is paying off for its students. From fall 2010 to spring 2011, the retention rate for students who accessed services through CNM Connect as 84.7 percent, compared to 70.5 percent for all first-time students. Participants were also far more likely to apply successfully for scholarships, grants and other assistance. The impressive CNM/ CNM Connect case study from the MDC report is excerpted here.

Ten of the 15 community colleges currently employing the CWF bundling approach were studied for this report. Success stories similar to the CNM case study were found at all ten studied. These results pretty clearly establish the effectiveness of the Center for Working Families model of student service delivery, make its eventual adoption by other institution likely.