Some U.S. colleges, like Fresno State University, are offering micro-grants to assist students on the path to graduation. 

Occasionally, college students experience financial difficulties that threaten to derail their plans to graduate. This is exactly what happened to one student at Fresno State University, EdSource reported.

The student still owed $600 in tuition fees even after receiving her financial aid. And despite working at a part-time job, she was unsure of how she would be able to pay rent and other financial obligations.

Then she learned about a campus program offering micro-grants to students in her situation. She applied and was awarded a $1,500 micro-grant. Thanks to the grant, that student was able to avoid being dropped from her classes due to non-payment. And the grant didn’t add to her $10,000 student loan debt.

Programs like Fresno State’s Bulldog Retention Grant are becoming increasingly popular for colleges across the U.S. These grants are usually distributed in modest amounts. They are designed to be emergency loans for students who experience financial hardships and may not be eligible for financial aid. 

For instance, the Bulldog Retention Grant provides money to students who are just 30 credit hours shy of graduating. When evaluating applications, the university looks for students who are registered but still owe less than $1,500. However, the university doesn’t only look for low-income students; middle-income students who find themselves in a tough spot financially are considered as well.

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Before being considered, students have to work with a counselor to see if there is another way for them to come up with the necessary funds. And students must demonstrate a true financial need in order to be considered for the grant.

So far, the program shows signs of success. Last year, Fresno State awarded 92 grants for amounts ranging between $420 and $1,500. Seventy-seven of the students who received a grant are still enrolled in school, and 15 of them were able to graduate, according to EdSource.

The micro-grants are funded by state and college funds aimed at making it easier for students to graduate. The program was inspired by the Panther Retention Grant, which was founded by Georgia State in 2011. It has continued to become a movement among colleges over the past three years.

A 2016 National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) study showed that out of 706 participating schools, 532 reported that they offered some form of emergency aid to students. And one-third of those schools offer grants specifically for seniors experiencing financial trouble.

Many schools have reported that the grant programs are successful. However, the NASPA study acknowledged that research about these programs is limited and, so far, there is no conclusive evidence to prove whether or not they actually boost graduation rates.