By PHILLIP SNYDER
AVP, WCC Foundation
Almost every day, we hear news about people who don’t have the money to afford food for their families, buy a decent car, or pay unforeseen medical or dental bills. We are troubled but since we don’t know their names or situations we just move on.
But how often do we think about those facing these difficulties who live right here in our own community?
Recently, the Washtenaw Community College Foundation has been thinking more and more about these issues and how they impact some of our students.
That’s because we have been meeting a significantly higher number of students who have either asked for help or have been referred to us for help, for unexpected expenses not related to tuition or books.
During its 31 years of service, the WCC Foundation has been committed to giving students hope and support through scholarships and other financial support, leading to a better educated workforce and a stronger community. The Foundation has provided scholarships to thousands of qualified WCC students and remains committed to this core goal.
But achieving our critical mission has become more challenging because of an emerging trend of some students stopped in their tracks by unexpected living expenses. Different than just several years ago, the Foundation now receives a substantially higher number of requests from its students for financial assistance not related to paying for tuition or books. In some cases, the financial strain is enough to cause students to immediately drop out of school and abandon their education.
Certainly not having enough money for food, transportation, and childcare is nothing new. College students have always struggled to afford both the cost of attending college and their daily living expenses. But today it is different and we’re seeing more students who are experiencing these problems.
The Foundation is interested in finding ways to help students, even if just on a temporary basis.
It is for this reason that the WCC Foundation set up a new Student Emergency Fund that will work with students to give limited, but critical, assistance.
The new fund is completely supported by gifts, donations, and grants from friends, companies, and foundations who share in the important goal of student retention and completion of degrees and certificates.
Students currently enrolled at WCC, and in good standing, can receive assistance pending a quick but thorough review by Foundation and WCC staff.
The concept is simple: A small one-time payment to solve an unexpected financial crisis could be the difference between staying in college or dropping out. This improves the student’s chance of securing higher paying employment and achieving even greater things in the future.
In just a couple of semesters, the new fund has helped a number of students deal with unanticipated expenses and stay on their education path. This has included:
- Kroger food cards, including for a family of six,
- Food and gas for veterans,
- One week in a hotel room for a student who was sleeping in a cardboard box,
- DTE payment plan assistance for a student,
- Car repair so a student could complete the semester and retain an on-campus job.
The early results are promising and compelling. However, there is much more to do and we will need your help.