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Grant supporting low-income students expires

A grant that supported low-income students in times of financial crisis has just reached the end of its two-year term. Endowed by the Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation (now Ascendium Education Solutions) in the fall of 2017, the Dash Emergency Grant provided Carleton with $168,000 to cover students’ unexpected expenses. Ascendium Education Solutions awarded a total of $7.2 million to 32 colleges across the midwest in 2017.

The Dash Grant was available only to domestic students with exceptional financial need, as determined by student eligibility for a federal Pell Grant. Over the course of the past two academic years, individual student grants summed around $1,000 and covered expenses such as winter clothing, transportation, healthcare, housing and family emergencies. During the 2017–18 school year, Carleton used $64,550 to help 67 different students; in 2018–19, 102 students benefited from the remaining $103,555.

The Dash Grant expires this year, consequently reducing Carleton’s capacity to assist low-income students with their financial concerns. However, students will continue to have a number of support options on campus. “Due to the generosity of Carleton alumni, we will continue to provide emergency funding for students,” Dean of Students Carolyn Livingston explained.

The emergency funding program organized by the Dean of Students Office in 2016, for example, was created to help students who have “exhausted all other possible financial resources,” according to the Office’s website. This program is available to both DACA and international students, who were not eligible for Dash grants. Further, this program can assist students in purchasing textbooks—a cost not subsidized under the Dash fund.

Trey Williams, director of TRIO, which assists low-income, first-generation and disabled students on campus, called the emergency program “a phenomenal tool to help students and one that TRIO will continue to speak with students about.”

However, the Dean of Students’ emergency funding program provides smaller individual grants than the Dash Grant provided. Grants typically total $250 per student—$750 less than that offered by Dash grants. According to Livingston, during the 2017-18 school year, the Dean of Students Office distributed $30,471 to students; during the 2018-19 school year, the office distributed $16,747.

Anesu Masakura ’20, President of the Carleton Student Association (CSA), also pointed out that the emergency program does not cover the same scope of expenses that the Dash grant covered, such as clothing, rent, and medical bills. “What we don’t want is students worrying about where they are going to get a winter coat or rent for the next month,” said Masakura.

Going forward, CSA intends to “work with Dean Livingston’s office to ensure that students’ needs are met just like before by advocating for an increase in the emergency funds [and] the scope of the funds,” said Masakura. He also encouraged “new ideas from students about what CSA or the College can do to best address their needs.”

Williams also cited the importance of supporting students through the “collaborative efforts of many offices and departments,” including TRIO, the Business Office, and Student Financial Services, who declined to comment on this story.

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