SSSP Helps Mercy Students With Low Income Gain Assistance


College tuition can be very costly, and some families struggle to keep children in college even with financial aid.

Yet Mercy College is doing its best to assist students. Not only is Mercy College ranked as 98th most affordable colleges in the U.S., with in state tuition being as low as $17,000; Mercy College also offers great assistance programs like the Student Support Services Project.

David Collins, director of the SSSP, helps Mercy College students with low income. He understands this struggle first hand.

“The program is something that I am very passionate about because each aspect of the program is something I was in need of while I was a student,” he said.

Collins attended Mercy College and obtained both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. He has now been working for Mercy College for the past 16 years. He has been an Admissions Recruiter, Campus Manager, Associate Director of PACT and now, Director of the Student Support Services Project.

Collins knows Mercy inside out, and has the ability to feel for the students on a personal level. “In every role that I held, I was always drawn to students who were underrepresented in higher education and those who stood in need of a little extra assistance and guidance. Working in this program was sort of a realization of that passion.”

Even with his new role as director, he still counsels students on his free time and always looks to help students get on track with their education. Collins plays a big part in the Mercy’s family and always makes one feel at home.

In regard to the program, it was made for people who are like Collins. He is a first generation college student from a low income home with an academic need. SSSP looks to attract students who have an academic need. An academic need means having a documented learning disability. It also looks for students who are first generation, and they do have a portion of student population that fall into the low-income category. Students must meet at least one of the federal eligibility guidelines to be considered.

The Student Support Services Project is a federally funded TRiO program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education. The SSSP has been running at Mercy College sine 1980. Also, this program has been renewed for another five years in September 2015. What the program does is give academic assistance to increase retention and graduation rates and to ensure success in higher education.

SSSP provides many services. One is academic advising, which is assisting each student in developing an academic plan designed for successful degree completion.

Other services are academic monitoring, which guides the student’s academic progress and facilitates additional resources needs;  academic enrichment/support, which is assisting each student in developing an Academic Success Plan and offering a variety of programs supporting the academic needs of students; financial aid assistance, which includes monitoring financial needs and providing a direct and indirect financial assistance; career exploration, which can be increasing career awareness and guide students in exploring potential professions; and cultural enrichment, which engages students beyond the classroom by exposing them to unique educational and academic opportunities;

Last, also available is personal counseling, which encourages students to discuss personal issues that may impact their academic progress and works to resolve these issues. Sometimes life is hard, and students just need someone a little wiser with more life experiences to push them into the right decision. That person can be a shoulder to cry on, when things get tough. The SSSP staff consists of people who truly care for students’ well-being and progress because they have been in those shoes before.

Every semester their goal is to offer both academic and culturally enriching events, geared at keeping their students engaged at the institution as well as in the program. Some of the functions that they had hosted in the past were trips to see Showboat, Aladdin, Ragtime, making sandwiches for the homeless, and work with Habitat for Humanity to build homes for those who are less fortunate. SSSP are currently working on a trip in April to help build homes with the help of Habitat for Humanity. Not only do they help one stay on track and do better academically, SSSP tries to give back to the community and the less fortunate.

SSSP has strong focus on grades because without a solid academic foundation students will never be able to realize college completion. Although this program is a great help to students SSSP also has challenges. Some of the major challenges have been working with students who have yet to realize their full potential.

Collins reminds us “When a person is unable to see how great they are, it is challenging to get them to tap into the potential and the greatness that you see is in them.” Also, students who are first generation do not realize the warning signs that Collins can see. Students don’t realize that they are in danger academically until very late.

Some of the early signs are failing test/ quiz grades, not going to classes and early alerts from professors.

The SSSP Students have responsibilities. These students must sign a contract with requirements. Some of those include actively participate in SSSP activities, regularly meet with their SSSP counselor, attend all COP/TRiO/SSSP general meetings, complete all registered classes each semester, and promptly submit all documentation and forms pertaining to program eligibility and financial aid. Students must be placed in at least one English development course, must be a United States citizen or permanent resident and motivated and committed to their education.

If you would Like to learn more of get in contact with SSSP you can find more info at or you can contact SSSP at (914) 674-7747 for further information and an application.