Great Lakes

Four-Year Colleges Will Help Undergrads Overcome Financial Emergencies

June 15, 2017
Man sitting at a desk with pen and pater getting ready to write

Unexpected expenses like a flat tire or root canal are more than just a headache for low-income college students. Financial emergencies must be paid before tuition and textbooks, and all too often, these students are forced to withdraw from college. Colleges that intervene with modest emergency grants—typically less than $1,000—can make a big difference in keeping their students on the path to graduation.

Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation & Affiliates recently awarded $7.2 million in Dash emergency grants to 32 four-year colleges and universities across Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio and Wisconsin. Using Great Lakes funds, plus their institutional contribution, the colleges will quickly deliver grants for emergencies related to transportation, housing, medical, child care and other costs so low-income students can focus on their education instead of their expenses.

Operating a successful emergency grant program is an effort that spans an institution. Faculty and staff are on the front lines, promoting the program to at-risk students and helping them overcome resistance to asking for help. Behind the scenes, Student Services, Financial Aid and Bursar's offices collaborate to efficiently evaluate and award grants.

Great Lakes' support for emergency grant programs began in 2012 in partnership with two-year colleges, and outcomes have been encouraging. We've seen that low-income students who receive emergency grants stay in school at better rates and graduate in larger numbers.

With this new grant, we are eager to learn the impact of emergency grants on four-year college students' persistence and completion rates. Additionally, we have the opportunity to identify nuances between emergency grant programs at two-year and four-year colleges. We're interested to see if there will be differences in the types of emergencies experienced by students, in the average amount requested, and how the timing of the request (e.g. fall, spring or summer semester) affects re-enrollment. We look forward to adding knowledge to the field so other colleges across the country can establish their own emergency grant programs.

For more information about the Dash emergency grant program, visit community.mygreatlakes.org.

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