DCCCD launches emergency aid fund

The DCCCD Foundation has partnered with a financial aid startup to offer quickly-disbursed aid to help students overcome financial emergencies that might otherwise lead them to drop out.

Manuel Zavala, Copy Editor/Fact Checker

The Dallas County Community College District Foundation has launched a program that can disburse a cash grant of up to $500 in financial aid to students who are having financial emergencies each year.

To create the DCCCD Emergency Aid Fund, the foundation partnered with a Brooklyn-based educational finance support and emergency aid company called Edquity.

Students submit applications through Edquity’s app or website, which also offer students information about a host of other sources of aid in areas such as food, housing, health, transportation and child care.

The program was rolled out ahead of schedule in response to the wave of 10 tornadoes that swept through North Texas Oct. 24, Valerie Cavazos, DCCCD Foundation marketing director, said.

The program received about 264 applications in its first week, she said. Of those, 27% were likely tornado victims, 34% were homeless, 50% had children and 30% had children less than 5 years old.

Cavazos said the program is currently in a pilot stage, so only full-time DCCCD students can apply. However, she said, the foundation hopes to open the program to part-time students in January 2020.

“Some of [the DCCCD colleges] actually have emergency aid funds, so expanding on that and making it a district-wide program was important,” Cavazos said.

Cavazos said one of the inspirations for the emergency aid fund was a 2016 study on food and housing insecurity among DCCCD students by the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s HOPE Lab. The study found that 41% of DCCCD students had recently skipped or reduced the size of their meals because they did not have enough money for food, and that 11% had been considered homeless at least one point in the past year.

“Through Edquity and the research from HOPE, we realized that students would stop or have to drop out from school due to a small to big financial crisis, and that’s what the hope is: that we’re keeping them in school,” Cavazos said.

According to an Oct. 24 DCCCD press release, Chemene Crawford, the district’s associate vice chancellor for student resources, said: “Everyone has financial emergencies. For students who are trying to make ends meet while improving their lives via higher education, these emergencies could mean a delay in completing college or not completing college at all.”

The DCCCD Foundation was founded in 1965, the same year as the district. It has also helped make sure each DCCCD college had a food pantry, helped arrange the North Texas Food Bank food truck’s monthly visits to each college and offers free DART passes to full-time students, Carvazos said.

Jacob Vaughn and Matthew Brown contributed to this story.