As colleges and universities across the country work to contain COVID-19 outbreaks and protect students, faculty, and staff members, the uncertainty of how the term will play out on local campuses has left the degree-earning potential of thousands of college students hanging by a thread.
Enter the Prentice Farrar & Alline Ford Brown Foundation, Bank of America, N.A., Trustee. The Foundation announced a two-year, $1.76 million grant that will help support college students’ access to basic needs at four West Texas higher-education institutions that serve approximately 60,000 college students from the Panhandle through West Texas: Amarillo College, El Paso Community College, Odessa College, and South Plains Community College.
“The majority of EPCC students receive some type of financial aid so even during regular circumstances, a significant number of students were already experiencing insecurity in meeting basic needs such as food, housing and other living expenses and the pandemic has only increased these challenges,” Keri Moe, EPCC’s Associate Vice President of External Relations, Communication and Development said.
“We are grateful for the Brown Foundation’s investment which will help ease this burden and ensure that students can stay in school, complete their degrees and contribute to our region as college graduates.”
The grant includes a significant investment in emergency aid for students that, in most cases, will nearly double the amount of aid available to students.
The grant is managed by Believe in Students, the nation’s only non-profit organization focused exclusively on supporting college students’ living expenses. “In terms of college students’ financial challenges, many of us think about big dollars, like tuition,” Traci Kirtley, Executive Director of BIS said.
“But often it’s a small dollar shortfall – an unexpected car repair, the inability to pay for adequate groceries, or, during the pandemic, internet access – that affects a student’s ability to continue their higher education journey.”
To get the funds to students quickly, they will be distributed by Edquity, the first provider of evidence-based, technology-enabled, scalable emergency aid for colleges and universities.
Edquity helps students apply for emergency aid in less than 10 minutes using an app. They receive a response in less than 24 hours, and receive aid within 48 hours. This allows college staff to focus on advising and supporting students, rather than pushing paperwork.
Other heads of colleges reacted to the news:
Dr. Robin Satterwhite, President of South Plains College, said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the financial shortfalls that many of our students experience each semester. The emergency aid that is so generously provided by the Brown Foundation will help bridge the financial gaps for the student recipients and will ensure that they can continue their dreams of pursuing a college education. South Plains College is extremely grateful for this incredible support.”
Said Dr. Gregory D. Williams, President of Odessa College, “We are truly grateful for OC’s inclusion in this grant. These funds will further assist our students in covering their needs during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Brown Foundation’s investment will help Odessa College continue to support our students in pursuit of their dreams to obtain their college education.”
The President of Amarillo College, Dr. Russell Lowery-Hart, added, “Amarillo College knows emergency aid is critical to ensuring students complete their degrees. This partnership with Edquity is one more option our students have to address the financial barriers that often stop their education.”
Data and evidence are critical to sustaining the provision of emergency aid throughout Texas. This fall the grant will also allow the Hope Center for College Community and Justice to field surveys to assess students’ need for emergency aid and their experiences seeking it.
Results from the surveys will be integrated into Texas-specific policy efforts to spread awareness among institutional and policy leaders. The Hope Center will also conduct a rigorous evaluation to examine the impact of this investment in West Texas students and inform future initiatives.