In September 2018, LEO co-founder Jim Sullivan spoke about the importance of using rigorous methods to structure and evaluate the effect of Emergency Financial Assistance (EFA) programs on college students. The Texas Higher Education Coordination Board hosted a conference for colleges and key stakeholders to discuss and contribute to a collaborative report on best practices for implementing EFA programs designed to address financial shocks that hinder academic performance, or in some cases, even the ability to remain enrolled in school. Dr. Sullivan presented results from LEO's study of Stay the Course™, which provides case management and EFA to low-income community college students and is shown to increase persistence and completion.
The main participants at the Advocating for Emergency Aid Programs in Higher Education conference were administrators of emergency financial aid at colleges across Texas. Unlike what you may find at a purely academic conference, this audience was uniquely able to share first-hand accounts of how emergency financial aid has empowered students as well as the practical funding and logistical difficulties of the programs. A common theme that emerged across participants was the inconsistency in the availability of funds-- many said this was made especially apparent in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey which drastically increased the need of EFA and depleted most of EFA funding for the next academic year. In light of this need for sustainability in EFA funding, participants resonated with Jim's talk which emphasized how a greater repertoire of evidence on EFA is needed both to improve and expand successful programs.