A bus ticket to get to school should be an affordable necessity, but that’s not the case for everyone. Some low-income students win scholarships to college but still have trouble with small necessities not factored into scholarship awards. Now, there are new ways to help them with some affordable philanthropy.
By Richard Whitmire
Affordable philanthropy, in the form of microgrants, is something I ran across while researching a book on what it takes to get low-income students not just into college, but through college. There’s a long list of what it takes to make that happen, but microgrants rise to the top of the list, partly because they are effective and partly because they are a way for people of modest means to make a big difference.
Microgrants cover the little stuff that nobody thinks about but can detour a student forever. Like that $60 bus ticket. Like $300 for books. Like $500 for an emergency visit home.
I first encountered microgrants while visiting Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania, where I met Mya Jackson, who is African American and grew up poor in very rural Gaston, N.C. She was a good student and got great scholarships to attend F&M, but little things threatened to trip her up. It was far colder in Lancaster than where she grew up, and the lack of winter gear made her reluctant to venture out. That meant she was less likely to form friendships, less likely to seek academic help, more likely to feel sad and isolated – and likely to teeter on the brink of flunking out.