Institutions are finding that delivering emergency aid is an effective practice for supporting low-income students who face a small, unforeseen financial crisis. Student ARC was established to serve as as a robust online source of information about emergency aid, including how programs are created, managed and sustained and how these efforts can improve student retention. Student ARC will become a social platform for the higher education community to build consensus around a consistent definition and taxonomy for emergency aid and to share timely and relevant resources.
Research shows that providing financially distressed students with a small amount of aid, usually less than $1,500, can help these students remain enrolled and progressing toward graduation.
A landscape analysis of emergency aid programs, released in 2016, shows that over 70% of institutions have access to a (limited) resource pool for those students who request support for a small crisis; yet few institutions have a formal program, and of those institutions, most do not have a defined program or practice. The majority of institutions have a program or practice that is ad hoc, undefined, and provides little marketing to students, faculty or staff. The result is that students who do not self-identify, or who do not know a program exists, may drop out of college due to a small, solvable resource need. The landscape analysis gathered information about the varied practices and impressions around emergency aid programs and what comprises a robust program.
The research identified the following components of a fully-developed emergency aid program:
- Identification - defining an emergency
- Procedures - guidelines appropriate to the needs and local context of the institution
- Timing - quick response to student crisis
- Integration - coordinated efforts across departments
- Marketing - awareness of the program
- Recurrence - students learn personal financial responsibility
- Governance - individuals responsible for operating the program and managing resources
- Financing - ensuring sufficient funds
- Stewardship - flexible safeguarding of limited funds
- Data - evaluation of information and metrics over time
The landscape analysis also uncovered five needs that should be addressed in order for institutions to strengthen and sustain these effortsin the future:
- A common language to describe and discuss emergency aid
- More policy guidance for administering emergency grants and loans
- Procedures to guide the development of new and existing efforts
- Improved use of data to identify students who need aid and to assess the effect of emergency aid effortson student success
- More automated processing
Student ARC will facilitate a national imperative around the use of emergency aid as a critical strategy for increasing degree completion for low-income students. The discussions through the Student ARC website will involve key higher education stakeholders that include administrators, funders, researchers, and policymakers. Student ARC will be an online hub for the dissemination of information regarding the efficacy of emergency aid programs, including examples of strong programs,and strategies for building, sustaining, and expanding such efforts.
As Student ARC continues to gather insights from professionals and organizations across the United States, we invite you to share your resources and contribute to the conversation.