Integrated Student Support Services: State Policy Considerations

Public perceptions of college students and their needs have not evolved. Likewise, embedded in the minds of policymakers is a traditional picture of higher education’s mission as largely focused on teaching and learning. To some extent, this is true for college staff, as well. As a result, shifting the paradigms around social, economic, and workforce issues is difficult, both at the campus and policy levels. Yet, if we are to achieve the levels of postsecondary and economic success necessary for individual, family, and state prosperity, addressing policy in these areas is critical.

The WSSN initiative responded to this reality by taking aim at the myriad systemic barriers impeding low income student college completion. WSSN sought to change institutional practices to ensure that more students would succeed and show that state policies can affect whether such innovations take root and expand to scale. State policies on postsecondary budgets, financial aid access, childcare subsidy eligibility, and transportation and housing assistance are critical to student success. That is why the odds of changing outcomes for students partially depend on supportive state policies.

With this in mind, the WSSN state policy work brought together state agency managers, institutional leaders, state advocates, and national policy experts to develop strategies to effect change in the three key pillars:

  1. Education and employment advancement— education, job readiness, training, and placement;
  2. Income and work supports— access to student financial aid, public benefits, tax credits, and free tax assistance; and
  3. 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.


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