Emergency grant experiences successful start

By Anna Toth

The university’s Dash Grant program has distributed over half of its allotted money at the end of its first semester. As of Nov. 15, the emergency grant program has stopped accepting applications in order to have funds for the spring semester.

Peter Meiksins, vice provost for academic programs at Cleveland State, said that the number of students who applied for a Dash Grant this semester is “at least north of a hundred.”

“We had a really large number of people apply,” Meiksins said.

The Dash Grant, often referred to as Dash Cash, is a one-time award of $1,000 for students facing a financial emergency. The program started this year with a $100,000 from Great Lakes nonprofit.

A condition of the grant was that Cleveland State would match the grant by 10 percent, meaning a total of $110,000 was made available for applicants in the first year.

“We’re about two-thirds of a way through the money,” Meiksins said.

Of the over one hundred students that applied, Meiksins explained that most of them were legitimate cases and Dash Grant was able to help. The most common financial emergency that students applied for assistance with were car repairs.

“A lot of students have older, unreliable cars and car repairs are expensive,” Meiksins said. “We tried to look at whether or not students could take the bus, but that’s not always an option.”

Other requests involved utility bills being late or on the brink of being turned off. The program tried to look for the emergency in each request. Housing was also a prevalent request in the applications.

“There were a number of people who presented us with issues as far as paying for housing. We had several students who had eviction notices, were living in their car or who were getting into housing but needed down payment,” Meiksins said. “We tried to fast track those.”

Students are eligible to apply for the Dash Emergency Grant if they are low-income and have a FASFA on file with the university. They must also provide proof and documentation of their emergency when initially applying for the grant through Campus 411, as the money is paid directly to where the money is due rather than given to the students.

While the Dash Grant program has given out a lot of money, Meiksins is most proud of the students they’ve been able to help in other ways. A lot of students were available for other grants around the university, such as the Last Mile Grant for students who had run out of financial aid.

“We actually found at least half a dozen students where we could get them that kind of assistance,” Meiskins said.

He also detailed other cases where students had more financial aid options and the Dash Grant program was able to connect them with other services to help them. Some of these students were in abusive relationships or had children and, because they applied to the Dash Grant program, they were able to be connected to other resources. This was part of the plan all along.

“The Dash Grant program is meant to be more than just a grant,” Meiksins said. “It’s meant to be an opportunity for the university to address the bigger economic problems of its students.”

The need of the Dash Emergency Grant program is not lost amongst Meiskin, who volunteers to run the program along with around fifteen other people. These people are employees at the university, from secretaries to librarians to even representatives from the alumni office, who run the program and don’t get paid for it.

While Meiksin praises the performance of all these volunteers, he worries about the lack of compensation and organization of the volunteers – especially with the sensitive information and massive amount of work that goes into each case.

“If you want to do this properly, you need to designate someone to coordinate it all,” Meiksins said.

This is one of the things that he hopes will be addressed as the future of the program at Cleveland State is discussed.

In regard to the spring semester, Meiksin said that he doesn’t know how long the money will last. But that he’s already considering finding an additional source of funds, either by the program raising it themselves or by securing supplemental funding since the need is so apparent.

While the funds dwindle for the first year, the second year of funding from the Great Lakes nonprofit is around $172.5 thousand. However, year two of the Dash Grant Program is the last year that the Great Lakes nonprofit will award money to Cleveland State for the program. This doesn’t deter Meiksins.  

“I think over the next year or so,” Meiksins said. “We’ll see a systematic effort to get that going so at year three, we’ll be able to keep this program going.”