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Western Governors U to Study Impact of Emergency Financial Aid on Retention

This spring, a segment of Western Governors University's 120,000-plus students will have access to an emergency financial aid app as part of research into how the disbursement of just-in-time funds can impact retention. The institution's education-focused research and development lab and ed tech accelerator, WGU Labs, has partnered with student financial support platform Edquity on the project.  

The Edquity platform provides emergency aid underwriting and disbursement, social services referral and tools for tracking finances. Its goal is to make emergency fund disbursements more efficient and help students take advantage of the safety net programs offered by their institution, the company said in a news announcement. WGU, for instance, provides about $1 million in emergency disbursements each year from its Financial Support Fund, money set aside to help students who encounter unusual hardships.  

"Given the extremely precarious financial circumstances of most college students — 50 percent of whom suffer from issues like food or housing insecurity — it can take as little as a $200 shock to completely upend a student's experience," noted David Helene, founder and CEO of Edquity, in a statement. "Students can encounter hardships that induce dropout and potentially lead to loan default, and they often don't even realize that their school provides emergency funds."

WGU Labs will analyze how students use the Edquity app, how they value the app’s support features (such as information on social services in the local community) and how the app affects perceptions of institutional support.

"Our students live all over the country, so the app's ability to share information about local social services is critical," said Amanda Savage, director of scholarships at WGU. "Edquity's 'culture of caring' approach will help us address much more acute student needs that impact them and their families, while speeding up the request-to-disbursement timeframe for students who experience hardships."

About the Author

Rhea Kelly is editor in chief for Campus Technology, THE Journal, and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].

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