Great Lakes: Funds new emergency grants shown to boost community and technical college completion

Contact: Amy Kerwin
[email protected]

31 colleges will help an estimated 4,000 low-income students stay on the path to graduation

Madison, Wis. – Community and technical colleges provide a gateway to promising futures for students from diverse backgrounds, many who are older, lower income, working and/or raising families. They juggle multiple financial responsibilities and unforeseen expenses—often less than $500—can threaten their ability to stay in college. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, just 20 percent of full-time students at public two-year institutions earn a degree within three years. Financial emergencies are among the reasons why so many students abandon their studies before they complete their degrees or certificates.

Colleges can make a difference for these at-risk students by quickly providing small emergency grants to remove economic barriers that stand in the way of completion. Through its new Dash Emergency Grant Program, Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation is helping more colleges offer emergency grants to students who receive Federal Pell Grants.

Great Lakes has awarded $1.5 million in Dash grants to 31 colleges in Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin that have shown an extraordinary commitment to engaging with students who experience a financial crisis. Proof of this commitment is an institutional investment: each college is providing an escalating cash match for student emergency grants, both to meet students’ immediate needs and move toward program sustainability. Over the duration of the grant period, upwards of 4,000 students stand to benefit from the Dash program.

“Great Lakes is pleased to provide more resources to colleges that are dedicated to supporting students in times of greatest need,” said Richard D. George, President and Chief Executive Officer of Great Lakes. “Emergency grants are a bridge to college completion and the financial security a community college credential can provide.”

The process is simple: students apply for small grants directly from their college when faced with an unexpected bill, such as a car repair or medical payment. Expenses are paid within 48 hours of the approved application. By quickly removing financial distractions, students don’t lose focus on their studies and continue moving toward completion.

Dash is based on the success of an emergency grant program that Great Lakes piloted at 16 technical colleges in Wisconsin from June 2012 to June 2015. More than 2,600 students received grants averaging $500 each. Of the students who received emergency grants during the three-year period, 73 percent either graduated or remained enrolled, compared to 67 percent of Pell recipients before the program began.

Southwest Wisconsin Technical College participated in the pilot program and is a recipient of a new Dash grant. “The emergency grants we made during the pilot grant were vital to keeping our most at-risk students enrolled during a time of crisis,” said Barb Tucker, Director of Institutional Advancement. “As a small, rural college, reliable transportation is critical to our students’ success. More than 63 percent of the grants we made allowed students to make essential car repairs and receive transportation assistance. If our college hadn’t been able to meet the immediate needs of these students, I have no doubt that many of them would have dropped out.”

To view a complete list of recipients of the 2016-2018 Dash emergency grant program, visit