Emergency grants at three universities to help persistence​

​HARRISBURG, Pa. – Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education, working with the State System Foundation, has taken a major step to help prevent dropout among at-risk students by launching the Keystone Extraordinary Emergency Program (KEEP).

KEEP will provide immediate grants to struggling university students facing the difficult choice of dropping out due to unexpected financial need. The student success program will be available as a pilot this Fall to students at California, Clarion, and Edinboro universities, with the expectation of refining and scaling the program to the rest of the State System at a later date.

Although the reasons students drop out of college are multi-dimensional, the barriers to completion are often related to financial pressures rather than academic ability.  

“A key to the success of public higher education is ensuring students who start on a path toward a degree can have the support they need to finish their journey,” Chancellor Dan Greenstein said. “Too many of our students cannot finish because they face costs, often unexpectedly and beyond their control. Successfully implementing this pilot program at California, Clarion, and Edinboro will provide a template for us to scale across our system.”

Providing grants to overcome an extraordinary emergency supports the State System’s mission to educate the citizens of Pennsylvania and help transform students’ lives. KEEP will not only improve student success, it will also help struggling students cross the finish line with a relevant degree and meet Pennsylvania’s workforce demand.

KEEP will be overseen by the State System Foundation, which worked to secure startup funding for the new program from an anonymous private foundation in Pennsylvania. A majority of the funding during the next two years will go directly to students for emergency aid, with some going to support the necessary infrastructure development to manage the program and ensure the quick distribution of funds. 

The State System Foundation plans to secure additional grants to continue the program and expand it across the entire system.

“Our System Redesign efforts focus on programs and initiatives that support student success, and KEEP will further those efforts so students can continue to enroll at the university of their choice,” said Cynthia Shapira, chair of the State System’s Board of Governors. “No student should have to stop pursuing their degree because of unexpected bills or other financial challenges.” 

More information about how students can access KEEP will be available at a later date.

Assessment and evaluation will be instrumental in understanding the overall impact of the KEEP grant program. This will include specific metrics related to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), student year-to-year persistence, and graduation rates to gauge its success.  

“Challenges extend beyond tuition, room, board, fees, and loans,” said System Foundation President Cynthia Pritchard. “They include costs related to unexpected life circumstances as well as food and housing insecurity. We’re grateful to the anonymous funder of this program for their trust and support as we try to reach every student who is struggling to stay enrolled due to financial reasons.”

The State System Foundation is an affiliated entity of Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education with a mission to amplify the impacts of the State System and ensure the success of its students.​

Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education oversees 14 four-year public universities educating more than 93,000 students across the Commonwealth. The State System offers more than 2,300 degrees and certificates in more than 530 academic areas.

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