Campus & Community

PBSC lands $950,000 federal grant to help students with basic needs

Robin Russo, a licensed clinical social worker and PBSC’s director of student well-being, Vanessa Gonzalez, Counseling Center specialist, Gina Cipriano, mental health intern, and Raquel Dyer, a student worker, stand in the Lake Worth campus Panther’s Pantry, which was recently renovated.

More help is on the way for Palm Beach State College students who need assistance with transportation, housing, child care, food and other basic needs while pursuing their education.

PBSC has received a $950,000 Basic Needs for Postsecondary Students Program grant from the U.S. Department of Education to expand its Student Counseling Center staff and increase and strengthen partnerships with community agencies and organizations to boost services for students. With an enhanced and streamlined needs assessments and case management framework, the College hopes to better serve students and help them overcome personal barriers to completing their education.

“We are thrilled to receive this grant,’’ said Robin Russo, a licensed clinical social worker and PBSC’s director of student well-being. “This will be a gamechanger for many students who are committed to their education but need extra support to get to the finish line.”

Through the three-year grant, PBSC will hire two additional full-time licensed mental health professionals and a Panther’s Pantry coordinator. It also will launch a student peer mentoring program and offer workshops for students, faculty and staff on mental health issues and community resources.

“We’re building a coalition with community resources so that we can make referrals and utilize community agencies to help students. With the additional staffing we will be able to do more for our students,’’ said Dr. Kathy Karran-McCoy, dean of student development.

The funding, which was recently announced by U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, is among 38 awards totaling more than $30 million going to colleges and universities around the nation from five competitive grant programs of the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE). FIPSE aims to improve higher education opportunities and outcomes for students from underrepresented communities.

In addition to the Basic Needs for Postsecondary Students Program, the other grant programs are Postsecondary Student Success Program, Open Textbooks Pilot Program, Centers of Excellence for Veteran Student Success and Transitioning Gang-Involved Youth to Higher Education Program.

“We cannot be complacent with a higher education system that leaves so many college students from diverse and underserved backgrounds without the supports and resources they need to succeed in school and, ultimately, graduate,” Cardona said in a prepared statement.

Palm Beach State is among 14 institutions awarded the Basic Needs for Postsecondary Students Program, including three in Florida.

Since 2021, the Counseling Center has received 13, 677 request for services. The request includes 1,045 counseling/case management appointments and 228 fund requests filed through The Foundation for Palm Beach State College’s Student Emergency Assistance Fund, which supports the work of the Counseling Center in assisting students.

To learn more about the Student Counseling Center, visit

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