Catalytic Giving

SUNY Student Emergency Fund


The financial aid system often falls short when it comes to supporting students who are at risk of dropping out of school because of financial crises caused by, or that result in, unexpected one-time expenses. These include rent arrears, medical expenses, homelessness or threat of eviction, and back-up transportation or car repairs. One-time costs associated with these sudden events are often less than $1,500.

Emergency grants programs are often constrained in funding resources and cannot meet the demand for aid, which leads institutions to limit marketing of the availability of funds in fear of opening the floodgates. Furthermore, these programs often do not track the impact of their aid dissemination on student retention, making it difficult to identify best practices.


Following reports of encouraging results from an emergency grants program funded by The Great Lakes Higher Education Foundation, now known as Ascendium Education Philanthropy, we partnered with the Gerstner Family Foundation (GFF), which has long supported such programs, to craft a Student Emergency Fund program to help State University of New York (SUNY) students facing a financial emergency get assistance in the short term so they can graduate in the long term.

The SUNY Impact Foundation administers the program, collects data, and studies the effects of the emergency funding. Initial grant awards, dependent upon undergraduate enrollment, range from $50,000 to $100,000 per SUNY campus with an additional 10% of the grant amount available to cover direct administrative expenses. Grants were awarded to six SUNY campuses: University at Albany, University at Buffalo, SUNY Buffalo State, Dutchess Community College, SUNY Oneonta, and SUNY Orange.  The results are also being analyzed by Scholarship America.

Read our press release.