University Business October 2017 - 56

CAMPUSFINANCE AID for the UNEXPECTED
Services. In addition, an institutional loan
fund-created with a portion of campus
parking fines-has become self-supporting through repayments of principal and
interest from previous borrowers.
Shipman advises other universities
to do the same. "Set aside grant dollars
each year that are specifically intended
for these emergency situations," he says.
"These situations have always arisen and
will always pop up in the course of an
education, and it just makes sense to plan
for that."
A short-term loan fund can start with
some initial seed money or a donation,
and then run on repayments and interest.
This assistance, Shipman says, can "become a lifeline for students and parents,
but cost the institution very little in new
expenditures."
3. Managing the process
Because most institutions can't provide
emergency aid to every student who requests it, implementing an effective application-and-approval process is crucial.
To best help students in emergencies, the
process should be swift.
Central Michigan students can submit
an online emergency grant application to
financial aid staff, who may request documentation. They reward the grant if the request is legitimate, Yats says. "When necessary, we can get money to students within a
few hours. For instance, recently a student
needed money to pay a medical bill so he
could get crutches for a broken ankle, and
we got the money to him that day."
While regular financial aid may be
granted based on a computer algorithm,
emergency assistance aid, at Central
Michigan and elsewhere, is often granted
on a manual, case-by-case basis.
"We really do not have any hard and
fast rules about what constitutes an emergency but try to look at each request on
its own merits," says Shipman of Michigan State. Say there's a really needy stu56 | October 2017

"When necessary, we can get money to
students within a few hours. Recently a student
needed money to pay a medical bill so he
could get crutches for a broken ankle,
and we got the money to him that day."
-Kirk Yats, Central Michigan University

dent who lost hours at work and is short
$100 for monthly expenses. Such a situation can be a major emergency "if that
student has absolutely nowhere else to
turn for assistance," he says. Financial
aid advisors make the initial determination and then consult with a manager if
they're uncertain or want to request endowment dollars.
When a need appears to be more than
short-term, some institutions try to increase federal, state or institutional grant
aid. "We have had students who need
emergency funding for a couple of months
and others who need that funding for a
couple of years," Shipman adds. "We don't
have a time limit but try to understand
when they first appeal to us how likely it
is that the situation will extend beyond the
current semester."
In those cases, the team will discuss
longer-term strategies, making the additional funding part of a financial plan
rather than a semester-by-semester need.
Should an institution set limits on the
amount of emergency aid students can
access? Some do. At Central Michigan,
students with a documented need can
use up to $2,000 per year from the emergency fund. "We don't get a lot of repeat
customers," Yats says. "However, if we can
spend $1,000 to help someone continue
in school, that's money well spent."
4. Spreading the word
Most colleges don't actively market their
emergency aid programs, since the avail-

able funds may not be enough to cover all
needs. Some do explain on the financial
aid office webpage that such assistance exists. Word of mouth, however, is the most
common method of informing students
about these programs.
At Michigan, Fowler's office receives
about five inquiries per week for emergency funds. Most are referrals from the
Dean of Students office or the Center for
the Education of Women, where students
go for emotional support.
On some campuses, offices other than
financial aid can also approve and administer emergency funds. These multiple
sources of emergency aid should coordinate with each other, says Karen McCarthy, director of policy analysis at the
National Association of Student Financial
Aid Administrators.
That communication, she adds, ensures that "efforts are not duplicated and
that students are getting the exact type of
aid they need-instead of just the type of
aid that happens to be administered by
the office they visited."

Nancy Mann Jackson, an Alabama-based
writer, is a frequent contributor to UB.
MORE ONLINE

3 options for using technology
to better manage the emergency
financial aid process
UBmag.me/finaidtech

www.universitybusiness.com


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