Emergency Aid Programs

New Research
2021-2022: An Evaluation of the Emergency Aid Programs at the University of Southern California and Los Angeles Community College District

In its third year of implementation, the Leonetti/ O’Connell Family Foundation’s emergency aid programs at the University of Southern California (USC) and the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) have continued to provide direct cash assistance to students experiencing financial hardships. Initiated in the 2019-20 school year, the program started in a pre- COVID-19 pandemic context and has evolved in program features and eligibility over the course of the pandemic. It has distributed over $797,000 dollars and roughly 1,200 cash awards over the 2019-20, 2020-21, and 2021- 22 academic years.

 Click here to read the full Report.


  • Support systems are limited: most emergency aid recipients report not receiving social support and only about a quarter get direct financial assistance from family members.
  • Losing employment is the most common financial stressor for emergency aid recipients and students are most concerned about paying for housing.
  • For many aid recipients, $500 provided temporary relief, but was not enough to ease their financial burdens for upcoming months.
  • The administrators all noted the effectiveness of providing clear instructions on the documentation needed for the application process, including examples, in enabling students to get funding.

Read the Report

This research is supported by The Leonetti/O’Connell Family Foundation

Photo Credit: iStock/jeffbergen


2020-2021: 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.

Click here to download the Brief. Click here to download the full Report.


  • 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.

Read the Executive Summary Read the Report

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.


Listen to the Episode!