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Columbus State graduate testifies in Washington, D.C.

Campus News | Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Columbus State Community College graduate Jenae Parker Wednesday testified before the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor at its full committee hearing “The Cost of College: Student-Centered Reforms to Bring Higher Education Within Reach." The event is one of five bipartisan hearings targeting House reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

Parker, a 2018 Columbus State graduate, is a single mother who has overcome financial challenges to excel academically, earning her associate degree with honors and currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree. She said she would not have been able to succeed in college without social services supports over and above the full federal Pell grant award she received.

“Even with the great value of an affordable community college tuition that is covered by Pell grant funding, I could not make ends meet going to college even while working part-time,” Parker said. “Fortunately, I was able to find supportive solutions through Job and Family Services and other community partnerships to keep my education within financial reach while being able to care for myself and my daughter.

“I am willing to and do make sacrifices to further my education, but it would simply not be possible without support for basic living expenses,” Parker said. “I know my story is not unique and I want to speak on behalf of others who are working hard to sustain a job, family and getting an education in the hope that the federal government will support innovation to make college more attainable for low-income students.”

“There are thousands of stories like Jenae’s at Columbus State and at every community college and four-year institution across the country,” said Columbus State President David Harrison. “As we work to build non-academic supports to the student experience such as housing and food assistance, we appreciate the consideration by our federal legislators of higher education funding solutions that encompass the needs of the whole student. Removing barriers is critical to student success supporting our strong workforce and eliminating equity gaps.”

In addition to maintaining low tuition, Columbus State has partnered with the Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services to host a full-time and part-time social worker at its downtown Columbus campus. The college is also partnering with Catholic Social Services to bring an additional three social workers to the campus in fall. Furthermore, Columbus State is partnering with Mid-Ohio Foodbank to launch this fall an on-campus fresh food market for students in need. The college is also exploring partnerships with United Way of Central Ohio and YMCA of Central Ohio to create innovative childcare and other critical service solutions for students.

Columbus State is the recent recipient of the Leah Meyer Austin Award recognizing progress for improving student outcomes, the highest honor bestowed by community college advancement nonprofit Achieving the Dream.

To read Parker’s full written testimony, visit

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