In order to aid students in different situations – that is, students from low-income homes,
students of color, and first-generation students – Great Lakes offers an emergency
grant program that covers unexpected financial hurdles such as medical bills, car
repairs and other sudden financial crises.
Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation & Affiliates is a non-profit organization
headquartered in Madison, WI. According to the group’s website, Great Lakes goal is
to help “those who traditionally have the most to gain from college, but who often
have the least support in getting there.”
The goal is to award the grants fast – within two days – so that students can focus on
their grades and day-to-day educational duties.
Amy Kerwin, Vice President – Community Investments at Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation & Affiliates said wrote via email that “students from low-income households often lack the additional resources (both financially and a human support system) to get them through a financial crisis. The fee for a tow truck might not seem like much, but for students struggling to make ends meet, it can be the end of their education.”
In order to minimize the occurrence of situations like these, Great Lakes has helped
two-year colleges build emergency grants since 2012. Only this year has the
organization decided to extend their Dash Emergency Grants to four-year colleges.
The group is interested in observing the differences between the nature and
the frequency of financial crises among four-year students and two-year students.
“We’ve found that two-year college students most often experience emergencies
related to housing and transportation. Given that many four-year college students
live on campus, will they experience as many emergencies related to
transportation? Will the funds they request help cover different types of
emergencies?” Kerwin said.
According to Kerwin, Great Lakes is committed to “sharing what [they] learn with
the higher education community, so other colleges can learn the best practices for
successful emergency grant programs.”
Great Lakes invited four-year colleges from Wisconsin, Arkansas, Iowa, North
Dakota and Minnesota to apply for the Dash Emergency Grant. Thirty-two colleges
that displayed commitment to making emergency grants permanent parts of their
student success strategy were selected, including UWM.
The total amount Great Lakes awarded was $7.2 million to these 32 four-year
colleges and each grant can be up to $1,000. Students from low-income
backgrounds with an expected family contribution of $7,000 or less as determined
by FAFSA are eligible to apply for the emergency grants. Kerwin said that the new
Enrollment Student Service Center at UWM and an enhanced self-service website
will feature key information about the Dash Emergency Grant for those interested.
Overall, this extension of the grants will not only provide an additional financial
resource to students faced with sudden crises but also some insight into how
colleges can best aid their students in these situations. Students never know what
life might throw at them, but groups like Great Lakes aim to keep students in school.
As Kerwin said, “With the stress of their financial emergency relieved, they can focus
on going to class, earning good grades, and re-enrolling the next semester. We’d like
to see that momentum continue, so more students get to graduation.