With the newly created Skyhawk Persistence Grant, Fort Lewis College is bridging a gap to degree completion for students facing unexpected financial hardships. When students have past due fees, they can’t register for the next semester’s classes and are essentially stalled in their degree progress.
The Skyhawk Persistence Grant will now ensure those struggling to pay outstanding fees, but otherwise in good standing academically, can continue with their education at FLC.
“Our hope is that this award will be a pleasant surprise for students struggling to pay off their balance, and they will register for classes and persist,” says Eric Huggins, professor of Management in the School of Business Administration.
The grant is funded through donor dollars and managed by the Microgrant Team, a subgroup of the Student Success & Retention Team. Huggins leads the Microgrant Team, which is supported by staff from the Financial Aid Office, Institutional Research, the Registrar's Office, and the FLC Foundation. Each semester the Microgrant Team will review all outstanding balances and choose students for the grant on a case-by-case basis, considering a number of things including grades and income.
In the first distribution in December, the Skyhawk Persistence Grant went to 23 students in amounts between $100 and $700. The majority of the awardees were granted enough to then become eligible for Spring 2019 registration, and in addition to continuing students, graduating seniors also received awards.
“We wanted to send them out into the world with a little gift from Fort Lewis to say thank you for finishing up,” says Huggins. “One student only needed enough for their graduation regalia, and we felt good about being able to cover that part for them.”
The grant budget is $31,000 to start, and donations will continue to provide funding.
“It is a wonderful opportunity for donors to make a significant difference in someone’s educational journey,” says Interim Provost Jesse Peters. “These grants allow students who might not otherwise persist and graduate to move forward and succeed at FLC.”
Next semester, the Skyhawk Persistence Grant will expand to in-semester financial emergencies. Huggins says the Microgrant Team is working to implement an online portal for students to submit a request for funds to cover an unexpected expense that would impede their enrollment or success in school. Huggins says the hope is to be able to respond with a cash grant within 48 hours.
“The students who are short a couple hundred bucks is where we can easily make a difference and help students who otherwise don’t have anywhere else to go,” says Huggins. “They deserve a chance to succeed just like anyone else, and hopefully the emergency fund will get to addressing that.”