The car breaks down. The babysitter gets sick. A trip to the emergency room puts an unexpected dent in an already tight budget.
Those are the types of money emergencies that can derail the education plans of college students who are already struggling financially.
The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee has received a Great Lakes Dash Grant of $630,000 to help undergraduate students meet such financial emergencies and stay in class. Coupled with a contribution from the university, the new emergency funds program will have a total of $675,000 available over the next two years.
The Dash Grants, which start this fall, will allow the university to offer students more help in meeting emergency expenses. Eligible undergraduates can apply for a single grant of up to $1,000 through the program for non-academic expenses.
UWM is one of 32 four-year universities in six Midwestern states to receive one of the 2017 Dash Grants, which previously were given only to two-year campuses. The grant comes from the philanthropic arm of Great Lakes, a nonprofit provider and servicer of student loans.
The new grant will provide much-needed help for students facing unexpected expenses, according to UWM’s Dean of Students Office. Last year, the university had 7,550 students who had an estimated family contribution of less than $5,235, according to the office. These students, taking part in the Pell Grant program for low-income students, are among those most likely to have to drop out of class because of financial emergencies.
Currently, the office tries to meet the emergency needs of these students through a variety of programs, including gifts from donors and the Life Impact program for student parents. The office estimates that if the awards average $500, the new Dash Grants could help up to 660 students the first year and 690 the second year.