All too often, unexpected emergencies such as car repairs and hospital bills can force low-income college students into a wrenching ultimatum: stay in college, or pay the bill?
The St. Kate's Access and Success program has been assisting low-income student parents with emergency financial assistance since its inception in 1993. Now, with the help of a new grant awarded by Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation & Affiliates — which also funds the University Career Ready Internship program — St. Kate's is able to extend this assistance to any low-income student who meets award criteria, not just student parents.
St. Kate's is one of 32 colleges and universities across six states to be awarded a Dash Emergency Grant from the $7.2 million funding by Great Lakes. St. Kate's, awarded $140,069, is one of the first four-year institutions to earn one of the grants in this new program, which is an expansion of Great Lakes' successful program for two-year colleges.
Beth Hamer, Access and Success program coordinator, will be one of the social workers assessing student need and qualification for the emergency grants. Since some 90% of St. Kate's students are the beneficiaries of financial aid, Hamer said, the University is a great institution for the program.
When time is money and money is time, a few days of missed class due to competing demands on time can mean the difference between staying in school and dropping out. The modest size of the grants permits quick action, allowing students to take care of the financial obstacles impeding attendance and ultimately helping them to finish their degree.
The grant also reflects a "more contemporary approach to higher ed," added Hamer. "We're demonstrating that we care about the whole student, not just whether they're staying in class or getting good grades. St. Kate's has a lot of students who are low-income, first-generation, and/or students of color, and this kind of program recognizes that students attending our University deal with complex challenges."
"We are grateful for the opportunity to increase our assistance to students," said Joan Demeules, associate director of Counseling and Student Development. "We know the difference these small grants make with retention and the ability to graduate."
The Access and Success office will prepare for the new emergency grant program, which will be based on referral by faculty and staff, over the next three months in anticipation of the start of Fall semester.
By Michelle Mullowney '17