Dreamkeepers: Emergency Financial Assistance
Nationally, more than half of all students who drop out of college do so for financial reasons — and many times students are forced to drop out due to unforeseen costs of a few hundred dollars or less. Scholarship America’s Emergency Financial Assistance allows institutions to provide students with emergency grants and alleviate unexpected financial burdens that otherwise could lead to dropping out.
Since the creation of the Dreamkeepers Emergency Financial Assistance Program in 2005, Scholarship America and its partners (the Kresge Foundation, Lumina Foundation, the Walmart Foundation and the Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation) have focused primarily on emergency grants at two-year colleges. Retention rates at these institutions are lower than other sectors of degree-granting institutions, with full-time students’ persistence rates averaging only 59 percent.
Over the last decade, our partner institutions have discovered that emergency financial assistance is a catalyst for completion — especially for at-risk students. Ninety-five percent of Scholarship America Dreamkeepers recipients complete the term they are enrolled in, and 88 percent enroll the next term.
“Thanks to [Dreamkeepers] I can get to class on time and not have to worry about my children being hungry,” said one recipient at Clark State Community College. “If I didn’t receive this help I’m not sure I could finish my semester without being behind or feeling as if I should just quit school and get a minimum wage job.”
In 2015, Scholarship America and the Wisconsin HOPE Lab collaborated to explore practices among emergency aid programs as a first step in identifying effective ways to make college more affordable for students. Our report, Investing in Student Completion: Overcoming Financial Barriers to Retention Through Small-Dollar Grants and Emergency Aid Programs sheds light on the current landscape of emergency aid and seeks to address the field’s “nascent approach” by examining how a college or university may create an effective emergency aid program.
As we look to expand this model and grow its impact, Scholarship America is seeking institutions of all kinds to partner with. Unlike some industry partners that provide institutions with a one-size-fits-all scholarship or grant program, Scholarship America works with partner schools to identify the right application of emergency financial assistance, tailor a platform that meets the needs of each campus’ unique student populations, and provide ongoing support services to ensure programmatic success.
If your school is losing students to unexpected fiscal setbacks, take our brief Dreamkeepers Readiness Assessment to see how we can work together to help them.