In an effort to reduce accumulated fees and unexpected costs from blocking students continued pursuits of their studies, Fort Lewis College has introduced the Skyhawk Persistence Grant.
Twenty-three students were awarded grants ranging from $100 to $700 in the first round of funding in December.
“The students who received the grants didn’t know it,” said Eric Huggins, professor of management with the School of Business Administration. “They were some of the most enjoyable calls I’ve ever made.”
Huggins said grants all went to pay off accumulated fees and other FLC-related costs, but plans are to expand the program so future cycles will include grants to cover such things as unexpected car repairs or trips back home.
FLC has a high percentage of first-generation college students and minority students, and many families struggle to pay unanticipated costs, Huggins said.
“Our goal was to help the most-deserving students we could,” he said.
The grant is funded through private donations through the Fort Lewis College Foundation and managed by the FLC Microgrant Team, which is led by Huggins.
Grants went to students in good standing who had small outstanding fees in the fall 2018 semester but had not yet registered for the spring 2019 semester. The committee looked at grade-point averages and other factors in awarding grants.
“The concept is not new. I’d like to say we invented it, but we are not the first institution to do this,” Huggins said, citing existing programs in the California Polytechnic State University system and at Georgia State University.
Mark Jastoroff, FLC vice president of advancement, said the grants, with an initial budget of $31,000, were funded by donations from a handful of donors and some seed money from the Fort Lewis College Foundation, the school’s private fundraising organization.
A fundraising campaign to augment the funds for Skyhawk Persistence Grants is planned either through direct mail or through crowdfunding, Jastoroff said.
Huggins said, “What we hope will happen is people will hear about the grants and it resonates with people who went through financial struggles in college.”
Eventually, Huggins said a website will be developed that will allow students to apply for the grant online.
Expanding the program to include grants to cover unexpected costs and to create a website so students can apply online is a work in progress, but Huggins said he hoped to have the website go up sometime before the end of the semester on April 29.
“If there are a handful of students we’ve helped that continue at FLC and graduate, then I think we’ve spent the money well,” Huggins said.