After visiting health services at Roberts Wesleyan College, one female student found she had a serious ailment that would require a kidney transplant. She missed a year of school, and when she returned needed a relative to co-sign her student loan because her parents had tapped out in paying her medical bills.
The next semester, she had a different relative co-sign, but then hit a wall and had no options left, no money to remain in school. In past years the college would have no other recourse but to lose the student, who had been dedicated and a good contributor to the school.
But through an $850,000 fund created solely through the contributions of the college’s trustees, the student was able to receive $5,000 to help her bridge the year until her parents had regained their financial stability. Trustees came up with the idea for the fund during the spring semester, deciding they wanted to set aside an extra amount of money aside from the school’s normal financial aid, officials said.
The funding is intended for situations like the student with the kidney ailment, those experiencing financial setbacks but expected to recover within the next year. Gary Walsh, vice president for advancement and external relations, said over the next four years financial aid and student life officials will look out for candidates.
“When we closed the books June 30, we put more money into financial aid than any other year, but there were still students who needed more help,” Walsh said. “In addition to the 10 percent increase in financial aid we gave through our regular channels, the committee now has this other piece of money available. If $5,000 would be what makes the difference for students, they have it.”
The fund was not advertised to students. Stephen Field, director of student financial services, said faculty was made aware and could help recommend students who would be good candidates.
“Most of them, we send them through the normal appeal process first,” Field said. “First we see if there is something from the federal government available for aid, and after that we look to see what we can do institutionally. If there still isn’t a fit, we see if their circumstances fit for the extra funding.”
The school initially looked at 40 students who could be candidates, and gave funding to 25. Because the funding is meant for those who need help for only a short time, some of those with little chance of regaining their financial footing could not be accepted.
Barry Smith, vice president for student life, said most of the students receiving the money came from families experiencing an unanticipated medical crisis or had parents lose jobs. It has had a positive effect, he said.
“April was a much better month this year than in several years, because that’s when you hear of students who want to stay but something came up financially that before this program we couldn’t make enough of a difference for,” Smith said. “It felt good again to work with these students and have this program available.”
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