Evaluating the Emergency Aid Programs at USC and
Los Angeles Community College District
Emergency Aid programs seek to reduce the vulnerability of low-income students, who often live on the brink of crisis, and for whom the inability to afford necessary expenses can threaten the successful completion of their degrees. While students often plan for expenses such as tuition, school fees, housing, and textbooks, unexpected expenses can arise due to emergencies such as illnesses and injuries, childcare needs, temporary homelessness, emancipation from foster care, and domestic violence. Unaddressed, such emergencies could lead students to take a break or withdraw from school. This report details the findings of an evaluation of Emergency Aid (EA) programs at the University of Southern California (USC) and within the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD), which were designed to help students overcome short-term emergencies and ultimately improve longer-term student success.
- The main impacts of receiving emergency aid for students were reduced stress and a greater ability to focus on school.
- Students overall had very positive experiences with the program, citing fast and simple application and disbursement processes.
- Across both campuses, COVID exacerbated existing financial insecurities, most commonly due to negative job impacts.
- If interviewee demographics are representative, the programs are being particularly used by Hispanic, Black, and Asian students; female students; and students with fairly high GPAs. The programs also appear to be an important resource to undocumented students, graduating seniors, and graduate students, who typically struggle obtaining financial support from other sources.
- Across both campuses, programs are not very well known and largely rely on word-of-mouth.
- Students lack clarity over eligibility requirements and other key application details, including whether their financial circumstances qualified as “emergency.” Further, students were sometimes hesitant to apply due to fear of taking aid form those experiencing greater need.
This research is supported by The Leonetti/O’Connell Family Foundation
Take a look at USC Bedrosian Center’s “The Bigger Picture” podcast episode with Director of USC Sol Price Center for Social Innovation Dr. Gary Dean Painter, Project Specialist Victoria Ciudad-Real, and Ph.D Candidate Hilary Olson as they delve deep into LACCD and USC’s Emergency Aid programs.