Supporting students during COVID-19 and beyond
As lawmakers consider economic relief options for those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is of vital importance to encourage them to make investment in higher education and student funding a priority. Two of these programs that we at College Now believe are necessary to fund to support students’ postsecondary goals now and in the future are the Pell Grant program at a federal level and the Ohio College Opportunity Grant at a statewide level.

The Pell Grant is the nation’s primary investment in higher education and helps millions of students each year afford and access higher education. For almost 50 years, the Pell Grant has helped millions of students successfully obtain their postsecondary degrees. Over time, however, the amount of the Pell Grant has not kept pace with either inflation or increased college costs. Indeed, for 2019-20, the maximum award available was $6,195. Without Pell Grant funding, many low-income, often first-generation college students would not have the ability to afford a postsecondary education. By continuing to invest in the Pell Grant, it will ensure that our students, and millions across the US, will have access to higher education both during this pandemic and in the years to come.

To show our support of this investment, College Now recently joined a national group of 77 organizations representing students and families, consumers, institutions, and civil rights groups in writing to Congress to advocate for significant increase in the purchasing power of the Pell Grant by doubling the maximum award. The group also asked policymakers to commit to ensuring that the grant increases at least at the rate of inflation, and to commit to keeping the Pell Grant surplus funds within the Pell Grant program to secure the program’s long-term viability.

To read the letter sent to Congress, click here.

College Now is also advocating at the statewide level for increases in funding for the Ohio College Opportunity Grant (OCOG), and we encourage you, our constituents, to contact your legislators to help us secure this vital grant funding, which is available to eligible Ohio students. It is of extreme importance that we continue to support students directly with need-based aid, as that is the single largest factor that drives student postsecondary enrollment. Combined with the Pell Grant, OCOG funding helps to make postsecondary education more affordable and accessible for a great number of students each year.

We are asking for your support in our request to maintain the planned increase in OCOG dollars that has been originally included in the State’s budget plans or, at the very least, for OCOG to be maintained at its current levels.

To contact your state legislator in support of this plan, please use the Ohio Legislature’s website to determine your legislators and click into their webpages to find their contact information. You can create your own message to advocate for OCOG funding (perhaps, if relevant, sharing your own experience) or use the text below to share your thoughts:

I am writing to express the need for the State of Ohio to maintain the planned increase in dollars for the Ohio College Opportunity Grant that was included in the State’s original budget plans. In all times, but especially now, it is vital that we continue to invest in our students and make it possible for them to obtain a postsecondary education. Those with postsecondary educations are more likely to find careers with living wages, which will allow them to support themselves, their families, and become important pieces of the State of Ohio’s economy. Without investing in supports to help students succeed and complete education after high school, we are not only hurting their opportunities, but the opportunity for growth in our state, as well. Thank you for your consideration.
Q&A with Hana Shaheen, College Now scholarship recipient and vice president of Cleveland State University's Student Government Association
Imagine being elected to office this spring. Your campaign, vision, and platform are based on realities that no longer exist, or are barely recognizable as the pandemic rolls through. Your constituents are suddenly facing challenges that realign their priorities and needs. Rising senior and College Now scholarship recipient Hana Shaheen knows first-hand how this feels. Hana was elected Vice President of Cleveland State University’s Student Government Association (SGA) in April 2020. Hana was kind enough to take a few moments to answer some of College Now's questions on her plans, where she wants to take CSU’s SGA, and what the future holds.

College Now: First, congratulations on your win! What an exciting moment! What went through your mind when you heard the results?

Hana Shaheen: Thank you! And with that, I’d like to thank everyone for their support! When I heard the news, the first thing I thought was, “Wow, there can be some light even in a situation like this.” I say this because at the time we found out, we had also found out the rest of our semester was now transitioning to remote learning. Hearing the positive news truly brought so much happiness to me and I knew the work it took to get there was all worth it. My team and I are looking forward to strategizing ways to deliver every promise we advocated to our student body! 
 
We all know that things are rapidly changing in the face of the pandemic. How will your priorities as Vice President be different now than they were at the outset of your campaign?

My priorities as Vice President, even through this pandemic, will not change outside of what I stood and advocated for during our campaigns! Although there is a possibility I might not be physically sitting in my office, I will continue to be there for the students, faculty, and the CSU student body as a whole because that is why I ran: so I can be their voice. With that, I will continue to do everything I can… Except, this time, it might be over Zoom! 
 
The pandemic has created entirely new sets of challenges, but also highlighted existing issues. What have you seen playing out in the campus community so far? Has anything surprised you?

The immediate transition to remote learning was not easy; however, our faculty, staff, and administration truly rose to the occasion and provided nothing but support for our campus community. Everyone is facing challenges during these unprecedented times, but despite it all, our campus leaders have maintained high-quality and responsive services to each and every student. From adjusting our grading system to ensure fairness, to mental health check-ups, to generous financial grants for student needs, Cleveland State has demonstrated an unequivocal passion for student support during a time we need it the most. 

As a current college student, where do you see colleges and other institutions stepping in and supporting students well, and where do you see room for more creativity and growth? How will SGA take a role in that next year?

I would hope to see other colleges and institutions continuing what they are doing to create a supportive space for their students and faculty. Something I stress upon my fellow students is the fact that, yes, maybe we aren’t able to all physically be with one another, but we have the ability to communicate with one another and help each other grow even outside of campus. I think as difficult as this situation may be for a lot of us, it provides us the ability to learn something new, adapt to change, and grow in every way possible that maybe we didn’t think we could! SGA will continue to support the students and families of CSU and, with that, SGA’s role will not change. We will continue to be the university’s student leaders.
 
Likely many reading this interview are either in college themselves, or know someone in college. What advice would you give current college students on navigating this situation, or what advice would you give to those who want to be the best supports possible to current students?  

Advice I would give current college students is the simple reminder that you’re not alone in this journey. This is a learning experience for students, faculty, and parents, all of the above! I think in times like this, it’s so important to remember that you have a support system with you. Even if one might doubt it, there are people available to provide you with the best support, whether it be academically or for your own mental health. The situation isn’t easy; however, it’s so important for each and every one of us to share our support and continue to be available… because someone is going to need it.
A College Now COVID-19 update:
Supporting students virtually
During a typical school year, College Now advisors host numerous workshops and events for students in their school buildings and at locations throughout the community. Due to the closure of many of these places due to the COVID-19 pandemic, College Now has shifted to hosting virtual programs and workshops for students of all ages on social media platforms and through live webinars.

These virtual programs are replicas of College Now's traditional key event workshops, such as grade level transitions, preparing for the first year of college, and more. Panelists from various higher education institutions and current college students have been featured as part of these discussions, sharing advice for students of all ages as they prepare for the next step in their academic career.
Coming up in June, students can register for college essay writing workshops with College Now and Lake Erie Ink. This workshop will help students craft essays for the Common App, scholarship applications, and/or a personal statement for the college application process. Those interested can register here. Workshops will be held over Zoom.

You can watch some of these sessions on College Now's Facebook page or on YouTube. More videos of previous virtual workshops will be added in the coming weeks for future student viewing.

Stay tuned to College Now's social media to learn more about virtual workshops available in the future!
Ready to change a life? Start with yours by joining the AmeriCorps team at College Now
For recent college grads who may be seeking opportunities in an uncertain workforce, College Now is recruiting individuals for full-time positions through the AmeriCorps program, beginning August 1st. Through an 11-month commitment, AmeriCorps members gain meaningful job experience and professional development, while helping students pursue and complete postsecondary education. Now, more than ever, students need the support provided through College Now’s work to create a more certain future. Solidify your post-graduation plan and make a difference in the lives of students by applying today!

To learn more about the program, please view this flyer and check out the video below to learn why some of our current members chose to serve a year with College Now's AmeriCorps program.

You can apply for the AmeriCorps program here. For more information, please contact Jennylee Gandarilla at jgandarilla@collegenowgc.org.
College Now's Resource Center still available for virtual appointments
The COVID-19 crisis is leaving an impact on the entire community, and may, unfortunately, result in a loss of work for individua ls. If you have found yourself out of work due to business or industry closures, College Now is here to support you in building new job skills to compete in the job market from the comfort of your own home .

College Now offers free educational advising and support services to students and adults of all ages who may be considering going back to school or finding a career path in an in-demand field. Advisors are specially trained to use tools that will identify and outline the educational pathway necessary to obtain a job in an in-demand field in Northeast Ohio.

College Now’s services are completely free and can be accessed virtually. Interested individuals can make an appointment on our website or can call 216.241.5587 and ask for a referral to the College Now Resource Center. You can also email resourcecenter@collegenowgc.org .
College Now Greater Cleveland
Post Office Plaza
1500 West 3rd Street, Suite 125
Cleveland, OH 44113
216.241.5587