Media Coverage: National non-profit organization connects students with needed public benefits

Montgomery County Community College is the first college in the country to partner with a national nonprofit organization to help student get public benefits for food, health care, housing and more.

“With the hardships many students are facing this year, Montgomery County Community College is taking an innovative approach to help students receive the resources that can help them with housing, food, child care and other essential needs by collaborating with Benefits Data Trust,” the college said in a statement.

Headquartered in Philadelphia, BDT provides benefit enrollment assistance to individuals in six states. BDT has delivered more than $50 million in previously untapped benefits to households in the greater Philadelphia region in the past year, the statement said.

“For students, getting the assistance they need often depends on knowing where to find it, and in many cases, that’s not always clear,” said Dr. Keima Sheriff, MCCC assistant dean of student programs. “With this pilot program, students will be able to call BDT to receive live assistance from a trained specialist who will connect and/or apply them to the services over the phone.”

Students will have access to a dedicated hotline and personalized, one-on-one phone assistance to determine eligibility and submit applications for multiple benefits, including food (SNAP) and medical (Medicaid) assistance and childcare (CCIS) subsidy.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, 38% of college students experienced food insecurity,” said Trooper Sanders, CEO of BDT. “We’re hopeful that by helping connect them to essential benefits they will be able to meet their basic needs, focus their attention on their studies, and secure a pathway to economic security and opportunity.”

College Board is supporting the referral line as part of a broader two-year partnership with Benefits Data Trust. “BDT has an impressive track record in streamlining access to benefits,” said Steve Bumbaugh, senior vice president of college and career access at the College Board.”

“The college is excited to be working with such great partners on this pilot,” said Dr. David Kowalski, MCCC associate vice president of institutional effectiveness and strategic innovation. “We know strong partnerships are essential to creating the scaled solutions needed to advance student success.”

The pilot program is one of several wellness initiatives MCCC has implemented. Earlier this year, MCCC was the first community college to collaborate with the online therapy service, Talkspace, which connects students to dedicated licensed therapists via a secure mobile app and web platform. MCCC students can access Talkspace anytime, anywhere at no additional cost.

More information about MCCC’s health and wellness support is at

Originally published in the Philadelphia Tribune on December 9, 2020.