First-time funds from the DASH Emergency Grant program considered critical for student retention
GREEN BAY – The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay is one of 32 colleges (one of four UW System schools) in the United States to receive funding to help low-income students who encounter financial emergencies while attending college.
The grant comes from the Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation & Affiliates, which awarded $7.2 million in “Dash Emergency Grants” to colleges that will integrate emergency grant programs into their overall student success strategy with the goal of increasing retention and completion rates. The program has been in existence since 2012. It is the first time UW-Green Bay has been awarded the grant.
Low-income students (defined as those students with estimated family contribution of less than $7,000 on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA) will be eligible to apply for the funds. Through the grant, UW-Green Bay can provide students with up to $1,000 for unanticipated expenses that are not college-related.
“For example, if a student’s car breaks down, we can pay for the repairs so that they can continue to attend classes and stay enrolled at UWGB,” says Associate Prof. Denise Bartell, Director of Student Success & Engagement. “Or if a student has an emergency need for child care because a family provider is no longer available, we can provide the grant to cover the costs. This grant will allow us to help students cover emergency expenses so that they can continue their college education. Too often, these kinds of unanticipated expenses can lead a student to drop out. Even a short period of time away from college makes it significantly less likely that a student will complete a degree. Our goal is to help students stay continuously enrolled and earn their degree as quickly as possible.”
Bartell says the need for an emergency grant program at UW-Green Bay is very real and is likely to increase over the next decade.
“The DASH Emergency Grant is a timely supplement that fits well with initiatives underway at UW-Green Bay to provide expanded individualized attention to struggling students. The grant aligns with current efforts to create and institutionalize a comprehensive set of support services for these students by offering additional training for faculty and staff to better identify and support the financial issues facing our students. It also provides a mechanism to identify and intervene with students facing financial challenges who may have otherwise gone unnoticed.”
Statistics demonstrate financial stress and correlation to withdrawing from college
In the Fall 2015 UW-Green Bay First-Year Student Survey (the most recent available), 32.7% of respondents reported that financial difficulties had been “challenging” or “very challenging” to their capacity to be successful in college during that year. Perhaps more telling, only 64% of those students reporting difficulties as “challenging” or “very challenging” were still enrolled at UW-Green Bay by the end of year two, as compared to 84% of students who reported financial difficulties were “not at all challenging.”
“It is very likely that the financial challenges these students faced played a significant role in their departure from UW-Green Bay,” Bartell said. “In our work with the Gateways to Phoenix Success (GPS) Program over the last four years, we have seen first-hand how one unanticipated expense, from something as mundane as an emergency room visit, can derail a student’s college goals. We have worked with over 30 faculty mentors and advisors in GPS, and every semester each mentor has at least two or three students in their cohort facing this type of challenge.” The GPS Program focuses on enhancing success for underrepresented students (i.e., low income, first generation, students of color and other students who may face discrimination and challenges to academic success due to their personal identity).
Financial difficulty is a rising concern
The largest single school district served by UW-Green Bay is the Green Bay Area Public Schools (GBAPS), with a population of over 21,000 students. Sixty-two percent of GBAPS students are defined by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction as being economically disadvantaged. UW-Green Bay’s urban-serving strategic vision seeks to renew the University’s commitment to serving Northeast Wisconsin students of all backgrounds, and to be an “access-driven, urban-serving comprehensive university… that promotes social equity in Green Bay and in the surrounding areas,” Bartell said.
“We want to better serve the under-served, but doing so will require continued development in the depth and breadth of support available at our institution,” she said. “The DASH Emergency Grant allows us to provide the emergency funds our students need to focus their energies on succeeding in college. The GPS Program’s emphasis on intervention allows us to harness the power of the existing campus infrastructure to help students work through the underlying issues that often contribute to financial emergencies, thereby minimizing the likelihood that such an event will derail their progress in the future.”
She says DASH Emergency Grant funding will provide the University with the financial resources to take the next step in its efforts to offer students a holistic support system to achieve success.
“UW-Green Bay has worked hard to develop a variety of programs and services to support the success of students from under-represented backgrounds,” Bartell says. “Our goal is to help every student, regardless of income-level or background, achieve their dream of a college degree. This initial infusion of funding will generate a powerful incentive for the University to develop the structures and processes necessary to offer such emergency grants (which can be quite challenging without preliminary data to showcase the success of this type of program). Funding will also allow leverage to partner with the institution’s Advancement staff members, who will help to develop a sustaining pool of funds with which to continue the program once the grant period is over.”
About the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay
The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay is a comprehensive public institution offering undergraduate and graduate programs to 7,300 students. The University transforms lives and communities through exceptional and award-winning teaching and research, innovative learning opportunities and a problem-solving approach to education. For more information, visit www.uwgb.edu.