For some Tarrant County College students, an unforeseen financial hardship could derail their dreams of earning a degree, certificate or even transferring to a four-year school. No student should have to worry about dropping out of school due to challenges associated with poverty, yet many TCC students do.
In fact, a 2018 Trellis survey of TCC students highlighted students’ fragile lives and propensity to be in financial distress. The unfortunate result is that many leave school because they are unable to overcome a financial emergency and access $500.
That’s why the TCC Foundation is launching the Eliminating Barriers Fund, allowing eligible TCC students to apply for a micro grant of up to $500 to help them deal with urgent, unforeseen and non-recurring emergencies such as emergency car repairs, temporary housing needs or travel costs due to death of a close family member.
“Our goal is to serve every student who is eligible during this baseline year,” said Mayra Olivares-Urueta, vice president of student development services at TCC Northeast. “When families can’t do what they need to help themselves and their families exit the poverty cycle, poverty continues to be perpetuated in ways that impact all of us, financially and otherwise. Therefore, we need to help our students who are most financially vulnerable stay on track and if this fund can be the source of that support, then we must use it.”
While this is the first time TCC has ever had an emergency fund like this, there are countless examples of TCC students facing financial hardships that cause them to leave. To address this problem, TCC Chancellor Eugene Giovannini challenged the TCC Foundation to make raising funds that would help “eliminate barriers that stand in the way of student success” a priority. They went out and secured $150,000 to support this new initiative.
“Support for this program has come from more than 20 different sources, including private foundations, businesses and the community,” said Liz Sisk, senior donor relations officer for TCC Foundation. “Our staff researched best practices in the management and administration of emergency assistance programs at other colleges, collaborated with internal staff to assess the need among TCC students and determine a plan of action, then started communicating with donors this new opportunity for support.”
How does the program work? Once a student submits a private referral and all necessary documents, the director of student conduct and prevention education and the vice president for student development services on the student’s campus will begin the review process. Next, the student will connect with the campus director of student conduct and prevention education to further assess and contextualize the student’s situation. When a request is approved, TCC will pay the bill or invoice directly to the vendor. Students needing more than $500 will be connected to community resources to seek supplemental funding.
“We hope that students won’t see this as a crutch but as a bridge to better outcomes,” Olivares-Urueta said. In addition to the emergency fund, TCC provides many sources of support to students including food pantries, free transportation through the EasyRide Program and connections to community resources. Eligible students can receive one micro grant per calendar year.
Although Sisk anticipates additional donations from the outside community, TCC faculty and staff can support this special student emergency assistance fund by contributing through the TCC Employees Care Campaign (October 1-31) or at any time during the calendar year.
“It is likely that most TCC faculty, Financial Aid staff and SDS employees can share many stories about how financial and personal emergencies derailed student learning and progress,” said Olivares-Urueta. “This unfortunate reality is one that is all too familiar in community colleges.”
Success will be measured by TCC’s ability to provide emergency funds to students in need. National research suggests that emergency support positively impacts student enrollment, retention, success and completion and student learning—all data TCC will track to understand effectiveness and impact.
To learn more about the Eliminating Barriers Fund and eligibility requirements, visit: www.tccd.edu/care-team. The application goes live September 2.