We’re In This Together

When I heard that I would receive this year’s Grawemeyer Award for Education, I was honored. When I learned the Award came with a $100,000 prize, I was energized. The big news: I will be matching all donations to the FAST Fund at a rate of three-to-one starting today and I will continue to match your donations until I have spent down the entire $100,000 prize that comes with the award.

I started the FAST Fund in 2016 after publishing the book Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American Dream. The book revealed for the first time the extent to which the college financial aid system does not help most students in need. Instead, young people are often forced to drop out of college before receiving a degree, saddling them with mountains of debt but nothing to show for it. And increasingly common challenges such as homelessness and hunger are never addressed through traditional financial aid routes.

The Faculty And Students Together (FAST) Fund cuts out the bureaucracy and puts money in the hands of teachers around the country — the people on the front line of this fight — in order to get emergency dollars to students swiftly. My research team and I have studied emergency aid like this for years, and found that often it’s a smaller amount of money given at the right time that makes the difference between a student staying in college or dropping out. This money can help make students’ immediate survival possible, while we also work to create the systemic change to solve the root causes of this problem.

Here are three examples of what emergency aid money from the FAST Fund has been used for so far, from the Milwaukee Area Technical College:

— A student had taken five early childhood education courses and paid for her Early Childhood Administrator credential. She did not have the $300 license fee that would allow her to be employed. The FAST Fund was used to paid the $300 fee.

— A business student was homeless for three weeks after aging out of foster care. Spending nights at Dunkin Donuts, he was living out of his suitcase and cleaning up at MATC at 6 AM when it opened. The FAST Fund provided him with $345 to secure temporary housing and purchase food.

— A paralegal student, the working mother of four children under the age of ten, was abandoned by her partner, who left her with very little money. She and her children were facing eviction because she was $400 short on her rent. The FAST Fund provided her with the money to prevent the eviction.

Here is how it works: Donations made beginning on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017, will be matched at a rate of three-to-one (i.e., a donation of $50.00 from Jane Doe will be matched by a $150.00 donation). This matching will continue until all $100,000 of the prize has been donated to the FAST Fund.

You can donate to the FAST Fund online, or checks can be made payable to the nonprofit Believe in Students, Inc., and mailed to:

Believe in Students, Inc.

P.O. Box 37199

Philadelphia, PA 19148

All of your donations are tax deductible and they help real people working to make a better life.

Please join me in helping students by moving beyond talk about “social mobility” and “opportunity” and acting. I’m not spending other peoples’ money — I’m putting my own down, firm. I stand with these college students. Won’t you?

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