It’s clear that emergency aid programs and cash assistance are essential forms of financial assistance for students, and higher education institutions around the country are designing creative programs to help students with basic needs. The financial assistance programs we find most interesting are those that share funds directly with students in some way. We’ve identified five programs around the U.S. that are particularly innovative in the ways in which they address basic needs insecurity.
New Moms, Chicago
Chicago nonprofit New Moms gives 25 moms who are enrolled at City Colleges of Chicago a monthly $500 stipend. They can spend the money on anything they need–food, clothes, transportation, or diapers. Designed for single moms pursuing long-term academic certifications or associate’s degrees, the program also provides coaching, transportation, and help with childcare.
Generation Hope, Washington, D.C.
The Generation Hope Scholar Program provides mentoring, training, and tuition assistance to teen parents in the Washington, D.C. metro area to help them finish college. Student families receive free mental health counseling, career coaching, tutoring, and mentoring, as well as several thousand dollars for tuition and access to emergency funds as needed.
Meharry Medical College, Nashville, TN
The HBCU Meharry Medical College put its CARES Act funding directly into its students' pockets, providing 956 students with $10,000 payments each that they could spend as they wished. Black doctors account for just 5% of the country’s physicians, and Meharry Medical College graduates more Black physicians than any other school. Meharry’s president Dr. James Hildreth believes giving the CARES Act money directly to students is the best use of the funds.
Florida A&M University, Tallahassee, FL and Dillard University, New Orleans, LA
Two other HBCUs, Florida A&M University and Dillard University, used CARES Act funding to erase student debt. Systemic racism has caused HBCUs to have fewer funds than other schools and more HBCU students to rely on loans, so using federal aid to erase their students’ debt is a meaningful decision. More than 20 other HBCUs have done the same.
Compton College, Compton, CA
Compton College distributed $250 grants to its students in spring 2020, and preliminary research shows that students who received emergency aid via Edquity were twice as likely to graduate by August, compared to students who did not receive aid. 85% of Compton College’s students are Black or Latinx, and 90% receive financial aid. 289 students applied for support during the first wave of the pandemic, and 90 were selected to receive grants. 22% of grant recipients completed their degrees by August, while only 11% of non-funded students graduated in August, a statistically significant difference.
It’s evident that financial assistance for students helps and is effective. For now, schools can use CARES Act funding to support students financially, but questions remain about what comes next. It’s our position that programs like these should continue to grow.