New program offers emergency assistance to students

By Anna Toth

 

Cleveland State University is adding to the ways it helps students with Dash Cash — an emergency aid program meant to help students in financial crisis.

Dash Cash was started with a $260,000 Dash Emergency Grant from the Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation & Affiliates, a nonprofit focused on furthering higher education institutions in the Great Lakes region The grant money will keep Dash Cash running for two years but Peter Meiksins – vice provost of academic programs at CSU – is already planning with other grant program team members to keep the program around for much longer.  

Meiksins explained that Cleveland State has a relatively high need student population that will be able to get help from Dash Cash should the situation arise, making Dash Cash an essential program at the school.

“We have students that are homeless, students that have serious health problems,” Meiksins said. “We see students all the time who have to make the decision to pay their rent bill or tuition bill.”

Dash Cash can’t be used to cover tuition or textbooks, and is instead meant to cover unexpected expenses, such as medical bills, car repair, rent or utility bills, or things related to child care – situations that would make a student consider dropping out or taking a semester off to rearrange their finances.

It was only this year that CSU could apply for the Dash Emergency Grant from the Great Lakes nonprofit.

Previously, the Dash Emergency Grant was only available to two-year colleges.

However, with the success of the program at colleges like Lakeland Community College, the Great Lakes nonprofit decided to open up grant applications to four year universities as well.

Applying for the Dash Emergency Grant wasn’t a question for the school, especially with the success of similar student resource programs aimed towards lower income students — like Lift Up Vikes, a student only food bank located on campus.

Students can apply for Dash Cash Assistance starting this Friday, September 8. Interested students must meet certain eligibility requirements set by both the school and the Great Lakes nonprofit.

To be eligible for Dash Cash, students must be a low-income, domestic student (not international) and have a FASFA on file with CSU. In addition, they must provide documentation of their emergency.

In the event of a financial emergency – like being short for rent – the student in need would go to Campus 411 with their documentation. In the case of rent, documentation would be previous rent bills as well any notices from their landlord.

Campus 411 would determine eligibility the same day. If they’re found eligible, Campus 411 would help the student fill out an application  and pass it – along with the student’s information – on to the grant project team members.

After the student fills out the application and supplies any additional documentation required, their bill will be paid in 48 hours. The student never sees the money though. Instead, the Dash Cash is sent to whoever the bill is addressed to. So, if the student needs the Dash Cash to pay rent, then the check would go right to the landlord.

Dash Cash can give up to $1,000 aid to students, but it’s a one time award for short term financial problems. Once a student received aid from Dash Cash, they can’t apply for it again.

“It’s not to help chronic problems, such as never being able to pay rent,” Meiksins said, although that is a problem many students face.

So even though Dash Cash Program is only a short term solution, Meiksins hopes that the program can help students in the long term.

“The hope is that one by one, we can help students handle their financial problems,” Meiksins said.

By working with students closely through the grant process, CSU hopes to prepare students for the next emergency or point them in the direction of longer term assistance.

 

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