Where col­lege stu­dents can find emer­gency money, food and hous­ing.

Get­ting help is eas­ier than you may have imag­ined.

Metro USA (Boston) - - FRONT PAGE - ANA HELHOSKI let­ters@metro.us

Col­lege stu­dents with­out a fi­nan­cial safety net are in a tough spot when un­ex­pected costs arise.

“The chances their par­ents can pick up the bill are not as high,” says Sara Goldrick-Rab, a pro­fes­sor at Tem­ple Uni­ver­sity in Philadel­phia and founder of the Wisconsin Hope Lab, a re­search cen­ter at the Uni­ver­sity of Wisconsin -Madi­son. “It’s not for lack of fam­i­lies want­ing to; they don’t have it.”

A 2018 na­tional sur­vey led by Goldrick­Rab found more than a third of 20,000 uni­ver­sity stu­dents sur­veyed were food in­se­cure or had limited or un­cer­tain ac­cess to food in the pre­vi­ous 30 days. And 36% of those stu­dents said they were hous­ing in­se­cure in the last year, which means they had trouble pay­ing hous­ing bills or had to move fre­quently.

Rec­og­niz­ing that a fi­nan­cial cri­sis can force a stu­dent to with­draw from classes, about three-quar­ters of col­leges and other post­sec­ondary schools of­fer some kind of help, ac­cord­ing to a 2016 sur­vey of emer­gency col­lege aid pro­grams by the pro­fes­sional as­so­ci­a­tion NASPA-Stu­dent Af­fairs Ad­min­is­tra­tors in Higher Ed­u­ca­tion. Pro­grams in­clude loans and small cash grants, din­ing-hall vouch­ers and food pantries, and schol­ar­ships to com­plete a se­mes­ter.

Here are re­sources for stu­dents who need emer­gency help. De­pend­ing on your school’s pol­icy, you may have to pro­vide doc­u­men­ta­tion of your fi­nan­cial need.

Fi­nan­cial help

Go to your school’s fi­nan­cial-aid or stu­dentaffairs of­fice to ask about emer­gency pro­grams, which could in­clude grants, com­ple­tion schol­ar­ships, emer­gency loans or vouch­ers. Usu­ally this money can pay for tu­ition, hous­ing, books, supplies and trans­porta­tion.

For ex­am­ple, at Grand Rapids Com­mu­nity Col­lege in Grand Rapids, Michigan, as­sis­tance is avail­able for stu­dents who face emer­gen­cies such as job loss, evic­tion or util­ity shut-off. The fund has pro­vided stu­dents with over $78,000 in grants and loans since 2014, ac­cord­ing to school spokesper­son Dave Mur­ray.

Emer­gency food

If you don’t have con­sis­tent ac­cess to food, con­tact your school’s stu­dentaffairs of­fice to learn about pro­grams such as food vouch­ers, schol­ar­ships, free meal plans, ac­cess to SNAP ben­e­fits and food pantries.

At the Uni­ver­sity of Ge­or­gia, where Jack­son says 10% of the pop­u­la­tion is af­fected by food in­se­cu­rity, stu­dents can ap­ply for year­long food schol­ar­ships that award meal plans. There’s also a campus food pantry.

Food pantries usu­ally stock non­per­ish­able foods, but some may also have fresh food and items such as clean­ing supplies and hy­giene prod­ucts, says Clare Cady, co-founder and di­rec­tor of the Col­lege and Uni­ver­sity Food Bank Al­liance, which has 626 mem­ber schools.

Ur­gent hous­ing

Few schools have emer­gency hous­ing, and op­tions are of­ten limited.

“There re­ally isn’t a good hous­ing so­lu­tion,” says Daphne Her­nan­dez, a Uni­ver­sity of Hous­ton re­searcher who is con­duct­ing a study of food schol­ar­ship ef­fec­tive­ness at Hous­ton Com­mu­nity Col­leges. “Four walls and a roof is a lit­tle more dif­fi­cult than food.”

Find out from your school’s hous­ing or stu­dent af­fairs of­fice if there is an on-campus emer­gency res­i­dency pro­gram. Some schools set aside dorm rooms. The of­fice of stu­dent af­fairs at your school may also point to off-campus hous­ing so­lu­tions in­clud­ing short-term sub­lets, apart­ments, youth shel­ters or room shares.

Fi­nan­cial aid

Emer­gency col­lege aid pro­grams tend to be short-term fixes that aren’t in­tended to re­place fed­eral aid. Be sure to sub­mit the Free Ap­pli­ca­tion for Fed­eral Stu­dent Aid, or FAFSA, each year. You may need to ap­peal if you don’t re­ceive enough aid or an un­ex­pected sit­u­a­tion arises, such as un­em­ploy­ment, med­i­cal ex­penses or the death of a care­giver.

To ap­peal your aid of­fer, even midyear, con­tact your school’s fi­nan­cial aid of­fice. Be pre­pared to de­tail your cir­cum­stances. Ask the of­fice to re­con­sider your aid award. Pro­vide any doc­u­men­ta­tion to sup­port your claim.

ISTOCK

If you find your­self in a tough fi­nan­cial spot at col­lege, there are re­sources and grants that can help you stay in class. ALL PHO­TOS ISTOCK

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