Last week, Lynne and Michelle almost dropped out. Their roommate had just moved in with her boyfriend, so their basic expenses — groceries, rent, and utilities for the last two months of school — had to be split two ways instead of three. Each of them now needed almost $900 to cover her portion of those expenses.
The only way to get that kind of money appeared to be replacing their part-time jobs with full-time work. Tuition had sucked up all their grants and scholarships. They were maxed out on their annual eligibility for federal student loans. Lynne’s parents were deceased, Michelle was estranged from her family, so neither could call home for help.
But dropping out meant walking away from spring semester having made no progress toward their degrees. Both would need to retake, at full price, courses they were close to completing. And it was too late to get spring tuition refunds.
“There must be another way,” said Lynne, but neither knew how.
Then Michelle visited her academic advisor. She learned that several alumni had funded a “micro-grant” program designed to help students just like she and Lynne.
Not every postsecondary institution has micro-grants. But the numbers that do is growing. Colleges, and even some high schools with graduates in college, are using them to help resolve financial problems that would otherwise push students into abandoning school.
Small wonder. Years ago, research showed that financial difficulties are the top two reasons for dropping out. Now these problems are even more widespread. As many as 93% of postsecondary students average over $4,900 in unmet need — a particular problem for the growing numbers of low-income college students because they typically lack the financial backing of family “safety nets.”
Here’s what students facing even seemingly small financial difficulties should do if those predicaments are undermining their ability to persist and graduate:
• Begin at the financial aid office. It may not administer micro-grants (which sometimes go by other names on different campuses), but it’s staff should be able to point students toward those who do.
• Learn micro-grant limits. How big can they be? How often can students get them?
• Find out how to apply. Many programs require minimal documentation and paperwork so they can deliver needed funds fast.
• Learn what else is required. Some programs oblige grant recipients to undergo financial counseling in order to reduce future financial difficulties.
• No micro-grant program? At least check another possibility — low-interest, institutional emergency loans.
Micro-grants help thousands of students who suddenly can’t afford to get across the finish line. If they’re available and needed, they can stop financial crises from denying students their degrees.
Do financial difficulties stand between you or your loved ones and that postsecondary degree? Let College Affordability Solutions help you with free consultations. Contact us Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm central time.