There are two ISD networks of community colleges. One, managed by MDC, includes community colleges that were the early adopters of the Working Families Success Network (WFSN)’s ISD approach and are now seasoned practitioners. The other, called the Working Students Success Network (WSSN), includes community colleges that are part of a national expansion of the early network.

The WSSN strategy was also founded under the auspices of WFSN, and has become an initiative of  is a program of Achieving the Dream. WSSN has been expanded nationally to support 19 community colleges in four states as they create pathways and provide integrated services that prepare low-income students for jobs with family-sustaining wages. WSSN’s strategy was developed to help low-income people reach financial stability and move up the economic ladder by promoting an innovative framework that strategically integrates and bundles three distinct but related services:

  • Education and employment advancement— education, job readiness, training, and placement;
  • Income and work supports— access to student financial aid, public benefits, tax credits, and free tax assistance; and
  • Financial services and asset building— financial education and coaching linked to affordable products and services to help families build self-sufficiency, stabilize their finances, and become more economically competitive.

This work is grounded in the belief that achieving a postsecondary credential is the best way to end intergenerational poverty and, thus, the ultimate goal of the community college expansion is to make it easier for low-income students to balance work, family, and education/professional aspirations. The expansion focuses on systems change through college culture and operations in order to support student success and ultimately family economic success. Colleges will do this by building upon and integrating the WSSN strategy into existing student-success efforts and workforce focused innovations and best practices.

This effort is supported with funding from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Bank of America Charitable Foundation, Lumina Foundation, MetLife Foundation, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

The community college expansion of the WSSN strategy seeks to demonstrate that embedding the WSSN strategy in college culture and systems can be cost effective and has the potential to bring about institutional change that leads to significant improvement in outcomes for low income students. The long term goal is to change the way community colleges operate so that low income students routinely and systematically receive the services that evidence suggests make a difference in whether a student thrives or languishes.

Conceived as an initiative in 2004 by Lumina Foundation and seven founding partner organizations, Achieving the Dream now leads the most comprehensive non-governmental reform movement for student success in higher education history. Together with a Network of over 200 institutions of higher education, 100 coaches and advisors, 15 state policy teams, and numerous investors and partners working throughout 35 states and the District of Columbia, the organization is helping more than 4 million community college students have a better chance of realizing greater economic opportunity and achieving their dreams.

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Helping Community College Students Achieve Financial Stability

This eight-page PDF gives an overview of WSSN, including how the program supports students, participating colleges and partner organizations in four states, and background on how and why the strategy works.

Preliminary WSSN Data Findings

A report by Achieving the Dream from 2016 gives data and analysis of performance in the initiative, showing that colleges have already met and exceeded their Year II targets based solely upon services provided in the fall 2015 semester