Colleges Offer Emergency Grants to Help Students Graduate
Emergency student loans, vouchers, and small grants can help cash-strapped students in a bind.
Universities and colleges are now offering upperclassmen emergency student loans, vouchers, and small grants, according to EdSource. Typically used for books, food, or other emergencies, universities and colleges are now using these often alumni-funded money pools for students who have exhausted other sources of financial aid and need small amounts of money to help them complete their college careers.
Loans have ranged from $90 up to almost $8,500, depending on the school’s program, funding, and student’s need. Students may undergo financial counseling, and an application is typically required. But the turnaround can be quick.
One Fresno State student had a $600 tuition bill before her upcoming graduation and faced getting dropped from classes if she didn’t pay right away. She had received some financial aid, but it didn’t cover everything. Thanks to her school’s program for upperclassmen nearing graduation, the Fresno State Bulldog Retention Grant, she was able to pay the bill and stay enrolled, EdSource reported.
Fresno State makes the micro-grant available to students with 30 remaining credit hours or less and $1,500 in debt remaining to pay for classes. Its program is open to low-income applicants, or applicants who might not meet Cal or Pell Grant requirements. The micro-grants don’t carry an income requirement, but students have to show a real financial need.
In 2017, the program gave $51,000 through 92 awards. Payments ranged from $420 to $1,500. From this group, 15 students donned a cap and gown while 77 remain at Fresno State.
Educational Institutes Also Win
Schools in the Cal State system, such as Cal Poly, are offering these micro-grants in an effort to improve graduation rates by 2025. As students with financial needs receive necessary money and stick around, schools can showcase improved rates and academics.
In a 2016 National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) study and survey, it found that in a pool of 706 participating colleges, 532 had some type of emergency aid either funded by an operating budget or donors. From these participants, about one-third offered a “completion” grant that was geared toward helping seniors make it to graduation. Money has been used for cash grants, loans, and food – including access to food pantries.
The emergency aid across the participating schools can be considered retention strategies, as the funds help students finish school and get a degree, according to Amelia Parnell, NASPA’s vice president for research and policy.
Student loan alternatives exist across the country, but many students don’t know about them. Parnell noted that in the past three years, schools have either started these efforts or are considering it. So students with a financial need should seek out this option, especially if it means the difference between graduating or dropping out.