Students participate in sharing their ideas on improving college affordability at the SGA and Rowan's Affordability task force luncheon on Thursday. Contributing writer/ Julia Train

The Student Government Association (SGA) and Rowan’s Affordability Task Force held a “ProfCents Luncheon” in the Chamberlain Student Center on Thursday.

The luncheon was set up to listen to feedback from students on how Rowan can help them make college more affordable. Around the room were questions posted that students could answer at will, which asked for their ideas and feedback.

Alison Novak, who works for the public relations and advertising department at Rowan, spoke on how the event came to be.

“We started two years ago, at the very beginning of the affordability task force,” Novak said. “The idea was to brainstorm, to get other people’s perspectives and come up with ways that we can help other people save money because we’re not students so we don’t get to see that side of it. We hear it, but it’s hard for us to imagine.”

Novak continued to explain how the perspective of the students was important for her and for other faculty members to understand in order to help.

At the first ProfCents Luncheon, 10 people showed up and came up with the idea of The Shop, which is the food pantry located on Rowan Blvd. At that initial meeting, other ideas came up to help students save money as well.

“We offered a couponing class last year, which was really fun, and now we have a textbook program on campus that’s trying to give professors money in order to create free textbooks for their classes,” Novak said.

This year a subcommittee within the Task Force was able to help students save about $100,000 by sponsoring five different textbooks on campus. Those classes, which require those textbooks, won’t have to pay anything due to that project.

“A lot of the things we came up with last time, like the website of resources and the shop, we were able to carry those out,” Novak said. “Now we just need new ideas and maybe there’s new things we can do that people can come up with.”

The goal of the ProfCents Luncheon on Thursday was to come up with those new ideas and continue to understand the perspective of the students.

Penny McPherson-Myers, the associate vice president for Diversity and Organizational Effectiveness at Rowan, helped make The Shop happen.

McPherson-Myers spoke on how she made the food pantry possible for students.

“A part of the affordability task force—faculty, staff and students—came together and looked at the data that we pulled together,” McPherson-Myers said.

The amount of students who participated in the survey was small, but showed about 48% of students were dealing with food insecurity.

“With that, SGA then took that information and communicated that with the students and got 1,000 signatures saying that they wanted The Shop, McPherson-Myers said.

With the support of other offices including Residential Housing, Student Affairs and Student Life, the committee was able to pull resources and donations to start The Shop.

The Shop offers students more than food, unlike an ordinary pantry. Students can go and get food, but there are also people working there who will guide them to other resources they may need.

“We’re lucky enough to have a part time social worker that is there to assist students as they come in and to address social issues that they need to deal with because we recognize that students that have food insecurity needs also have other issues that are going on and other needs that they have,” McPherson-Myers said.

Members of the committee wanted to make sure there was someone there to help students, and make them feel comfortable enough to share some of the struggles they may be facing in order to direct them to the correct resources.  

The food pantry is currently in partnership with larger companies such as Philabundance, in order to lessen the amount of students who are food insecure.

“A year later, we were able to grow that relationship and now Philabundance is coming on campus, which is allowing us to provide more resources for students on campus and serve the community,” McPherson-Myers said. “We’re glad to have Philabundance and we’re always looking for new ways to help students”.

The ProfCents Luncheon gave students the opportunity to provide the committee with ideas in order to make certain aspects of college more affordable. Attending college can make it difficult to afford food for some students because they have to pay for other expenses they have to prioritize. With events like the ProfCents Luncheon, the burden of balancing college payments with other necessities lightens.

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