Student Emergency Fund

Our Community’s Need

Higher educational attainment is clearly linked to greater employment opportunities, higher incomes, housing stability, better health, and much more.

Illinois had more than 2,300 homeless college students identified through the FAFSA process for the 2015- 2016 school year – the third largest population of homeless students in the country, behind California and Texas.

Our community needs assessment, conducted in 2014, revealed that:

  • 92% of teachers knew students who dropped out of higher education for financial reasons.
  • 25% of students surveyed who dropped out for financial reasons needed as little as $1,000 to remain in school.
  • 10% of students surveyed reported that just $500 stood between them and graduation.
  • Colleges that administered their own emergency funds performed poorly in sharing eligibility requirements or how to access the funds. In addition, students demonstrated a lack of trust towards college administration, including perceived gate-keeping or favoritism. In some instances, receiving emergency funds also had a negative impact on students’ overall financial aid package.

Our Solution

Based on our research and community needs assessment, we developed and launched a Student Emergency Fund designed specifically to support Chicago’s low-income college students at risk of dropping out of school due to an unexpected financial crisis. The short-term goal is to help students maintain stability through a crisis and remain enrolled in a school. The long-term goal is to boost rates of academic retention, success, and graduation for at-risk students.

Our Student Emergency Fund provides up to $1,000 per student per semester to cover a wide variety of basic needs. Residents of Chicago who attend college in the state of Illinois are eligible for assistance and must provide basic documentation about their crisis (e.g., copy of eviction notice).

Our Student Emergency Fund partners with college access and persistence agencies with a track record of success in supporting students entering and persisting through college. We train our partners to identify students in need and inform them of eligibility requirements, request procedures, and we convene several partner meetings a year to forge connections, share experiences, and discuss best practices. Our partners then refer students and provide any additional wrap-around support services that students might need.

In 2020, we added National Louis University as a new Student Emergency Fund partner.

Our 2023 partner agencies are:

  • Bottom Line
  • Chicago City Colleges
    • Harry S. Truman
    • Harold Washington (non-continuing education classes only)
    • Malcolm X
    • Olive-Harvey
    • Kennedy-King
    • Wilbur Wright
    • Richard J. Daley
  • Chicago Scholars
  • College Possible
  • Companies that Care – Aim High
  • Depaul USA
  • Embarc
  • Genesys Work Chicago
  • MetroSquash
  • Noble Network of Charter Schools
  • One Goal
  • One Million Degrees
  • National Louis University
  • North Lawndale College Prep
  • Unity Parenting & Counseling Inc. (Referrals must come from the CoC homeless youth service providers listed below)
    • CoC homeless youth service providers
      • Center on Halsted
      • Heartland (Human Care Services)
      • Teen Living Program
      • Child Serve (The Emerge Program)
      • New Moms
      • La Casa Norte (The Resurrection Project)
      • The Night Ministry
      • Covenant House
      • Thresholds
      • UCANN

Our Impact

In 2020, we assisted 2,617 students and disbursed $1,213,045 in an average of 5 days, with students receiving an average of $464 in assistance.

Since launching in May 2015, we have assisted 3,990 students and disbursed $1,795,591. The average grant size is $450, and the payment is made in an average of 3.3 days.

The top 5 requests for support in 2020 were for:

  1. Tuition/Graduation fees: 37%
  2. Books: 19%
  3. School Supplies: 15%
  4. Rent: 13%
  5. Utilities: 7%

Client Demographics:

  • 50% were freshmen, 31% were sophomores, 9% were juniors, 8% were seniors, and 3% were fifth-year or beyond.
  • 44% were in a two-year degree program, and 56% were in a four-year degree program.
  • 71% were female, 28% were male, and 1% were trans, non-binary, or prefer not to answer.
  • 53% identified as Black/African American, 34% as Other/Multi-Racial, 5% as White/Caucasian, 4% as Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, 1% as Asian, 1% as American Indian/Alaska Native, and 1% preferred not to answer.