Senator Smith Introduces Bill to Provide Financial Stability for College Students Faced With Unexpected Emergencies

Washington [5.1.23] – This week, Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) reintroduced legislation to ensure college students are able to stay enrolled in school in the face of unexpected emergencies.

For many students, paying for college requires carefully balancing student loan debts, jobs, and studies, which can be easily derailed by an unexpected costly event. The Emergency Grant Aid for College Students Act would provide financial stability for students struggling to manage a sudden death in the family, car repair, medical bill or any number of financial emergencies that too often force students to drop out of school.

The bill was introduced in the House by Representative Joe Morelle (D-NY 25).

“The cost of college is a precarious balancing act for many students, and that’s when everything is going ‘right,’” said Senator Smith. “This bill would help provide financial stability for students facing a death in the family, steep medical bills, or any number of unexpected emergencies that too often force them to drop out of school.”

“Every student deserves the opportunity to pursue higher education and achieve their personal and professional goals,” said Congressman Morelle. “Unfortunately, unexpected financial emergencies like a vehicle breaking down or the sudden loss of a job can derail years of dedicated work, preventing young people from completing their coursework or even causing them to drop out. That’s not right—which is why I am proud to partner with Senator Smith to introduce this important legislation and ensure students have the support and resources necessary to reach their full potential.”

“The Today’s Students Coalition (TSC) applauds the efforts of Senator Smith and Representative Morelle to establish an emergency grant aid program for post-secondary students. Emergency grants have served as vital lifelines before and after the pandemic for students struggling to navigate unforeseen financial obstacles that could disrupt their academic progress and success,” said Julie Peller, Executive Director of Today’s Students Coalition (TSC). “Too often, even a small expense, such as a car repair or grocery bill, can cause a student to have to choose between paying for that expense or staying in school. The Today’s Student Coalition has been a longtime supporter of a permanent emergency aid grant and is thankful to Senator Smith and Representative Morelle for leading the way on this issue.”

“uAspire provides financial aid advising to thousands of students so we see how health, family, or other personal emergencies add financial pressure that can upend a student’s semester,” said Anika Van Eaton, Vice President, Policy, uAspire. “We provide grants to our advisees to manage emergencies because we know the difference that can make. We applaud Senator Smith and Representative Morelle for leading with the Emergency Grant Aid for College Act to bring more crucial just-in-time resources to college students across the country to prevent unexpected emergencies from ending college goals.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced campuses to close and millions or college students faced unexpected costs, Congress provided funding for institutions of high education to provide emergency grants in order to make sure students had the resources they needed to stay enrolled.  In February 2023, the Department of Education reported that more than 18 million students received this direct financial assistance through the Higher Education Emergency Relief fund, helping millions of students stay enrolled.  Yet college students face emergencies all the time, not just during the pandemic, and the consequences of these disruptions are significant. Data shows these events are particularly disruptive for Black, Latino, Native, and low-income students.

The Emergency Grant Aid for College Students Act would authorize a grant program for institutions of higher education to provide emergency grants to college students to help them get through unanticipated emergencies. These grants would be administered by their campus and unlike a student loan, would not need to be repaid.