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SUNY announces emergency aid for degree completion


The State University of New York and the SUNY Impact Foundation announced Monday the launch of a student emergency aid pilot program at seven SUNY campuses, including Buffalo State College, supported by more than $600,000 in donations from the Gerstner Family Foundation and the Heckscher Foundation for Children. These funds will be awarded to students experiencing an unforeseen financial hardship or emergency situation, with the goal of keeping more students on track toward graduation.

“SUNY recognizes that students are not impervious to crises and we want to do all we can do to support students when a situation arises that will have a lasting impact on their ability to complete college,” said SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson. “An emergency aid program at SUNY New Paltz recently awarded funds to 100 students, and 87 percent of them have returned to campus and are on track to finishing their degree. Taking success like that to scale across our 64 campuses can be a real game-changer for SUNY students. We are so thankful to the Gerstner Family Foundation and the Heckscher Foundation for Children for starting us on this path.”

“Across the nation, studies report as many as 65 percent of students surveyed who drop out plan to return, but the sad truth is that only 38 percent ultimately do,” said SUNY Impact Foundation Executive Director Christine Fitzgibbons. “We are excited to implement and manage this grant program to provide aid to our students in the short-term, and assess the impact on retention and graduation rates moving forward.”

“A financial emergency for the neediest of students can be the beginning of the end of their college experience," said Peter Sloane, Chairman and CEO of The Heckscher Foundation for Children. “Partnering with a dynamic foundation like the Gerstner Family Foundation and a leading university system like SUNY and its esteemed new leader, Kristina Johnson, is consistent with our venture philanthropy approach to helping underserved youth achieve self-sufficiency.”

“Our experience creating and supporting emergency grant programs over the past decade has convinced us that they can have a tremendous impact on people’s lives,” said Kara Klein, Executive Director of the Gerstner Family Foundation. “We are thrilled to be partnering with the terrific teams at Heckscher and SUNY to leverage what we’ve learned and collaboratively take it to the next level to help many students overcome a crisis and stay on track toward achieving their goals.”

SUNY Impact Foundation will administer the program, collect data, and study the effects of the emergency funding. Initial grant awards, dependent upon undergraduate enrollment, range from $50,000 to $100,000 per SUNY campus with an additional 10 percent of the grant amount available to cover direct administrative expenses. Grants were awarded to seven SUNY campuses: Buffalo State, Cayuga Community College, Dutchess Community College, SUNY Oneonta, SUNY Orange, University at Albany, and University at Buffalo,

“We are grateful to the Gerstner Family Foundation and the Heckscher Foundation for Children for supporting this important initiative,” said Buffalo State President Katherine Conway-Turner. “The availability of these funds will make all the difference for students who may need a little help financially to overcome an unforeseen hardship or emergency. This assistance will lift up students during tough times, and keep them on a path to graduate and 'Roar in 4.'”

Emergency aid will be given to help students facing an unforeseen event or an unexpected need for aid such as homelessness or threat of eviction, medical emergency, natural disaster, domestic violence, theft, and loss of employment. Examples of eligible expenses include rent, utilities, clothing, furniture, medical expenses, backup child care, backup transportation, and replacement of stolen items needed for school.

The Impact Foundation’s near-term goal is to facilitate communication between the funding foundations and the participating SUNY schools, to monitor adherence to program guidelines, and to facilitate collection and analysis of data collected from the schools. Long-term goals include expansion in the SUNY system and achieving measurable increases in retention and graduation rates among SUNY’s low-income students, and improved income mobility.

Pilot campuses will provide information about the student emergency program in the beginning of the Spring 2018 term when students may start to apply. Buffalo State’s program will be administered by the Dean of Students Office. To be eligible to apply for an emergency grant, a student must be enrolled in at least six credits and must be seeking a bachelor’s or associate degree.