With the help of a $6,000 grant from the Victoria College Foundation, Victoria College has piloted an “I Believe in You” voucher program to help bridge the gap between instructors and students.
The idea came from Jeffrey Hubbard, a government professor at Victoria College, who attended a presentation by colleagues from Loraine County Community College (Ohio) at the Texas Pathways Institute in 2019. LCCC representatives discussed how their school allowed faculty to present students with a “Success Pass,” which entitled students to receive $25 to use for any purpose.
“The genesis of the program came from the fact that many students are struggling with life issues, not necessarily academic issues,” Hubbard said. “Those of us engaged in teaching have all had the experience of a student coming to our office and breaking down in tears because they could not afford gas or a transit pass to get to school. Some have come to us and told us they have not been able to eat regularly or were living in their cars.”
The “Success Passes” are given at the instructor’s discretion to students experiencing life issues that are affecting their academic performance.
“A $25 ‘Success Pass’ is not a panacea, but oftentimes students need a little encouragement along with a small financial boost,” Hubbard said. “Faculty are often frontline in dealing with these issues, and the ability to give a student a voucher that will help them through an immediate problem could be invaluable in keeping that student in college.
“By receiving a voucher that says ‘I Believe in You,’ a student feels the faculty and Victoria College are there for them,” Hubbard said. “Faculty are seen as more approachable, concerned and caring.”
The initiative, which officially began this semester, is aimed at increasing achievement outcomes and reinforcing Victoria College’s vision of “Improving Lives, Strengthening Communities.” Twenty-four students had received vouchers as of Oct. 20.
Hubbard said he gave a voucher to one of his students who lost his home and is living with friends.
“He was planning on dropping out, but decided to stick it out and then got hit with a $17 charge for proctoring services,” Hubbard said. “He contacted me again about dropping, and I gave him a voucher to cover the cost of testing to keep him in school.”
Victoria College President Jennifer Kent applauded the initiative.
“We commend Dr. Hubbard’s commitment to students as well as his efforts to bring a new idea forward aimed to bridge the gap with students,” Kent said.
“This effort in compassion also stands to help VC empirically research what our students’ needs truly are,” Hubbard said. “VC’s Institutional Effectiveness, Research and Assessment Department has committed to studying the educational outcomes of students impacted by this pilot.”
The vouchers have no monetary value themselves and have to be redeemed at VC’s Student Services Building.
“This allows Student Services to be aware of students who have issues that they may not have previously been aware of,” Hubbard said. “By having the student visit Student Services to redeem the voucher, we will be able to actually enhance the current student support services already in place. It is likely that students redeeming ‘I Believe in You’ vouchers may also need other assistance that the college will now be aware of, allowing a follow-up with that student.”