New UMN program offers $1,500 to minority grad students for financial emergencies

The DOVE Emergency Fund offers a one-time award of $1,500 to help minority students complete their degrees after emergencies.

David Clarey

The trial run of a new grant is offering University of Minnesota graduate students from underrepresented populations a chance to bounce back from tumultuous financial situations.

The Diversity of Views and Experiences Emergency Fund offers a one-time award of up to $1,500 for emergencies that could derail students’ academic careers. Eligible expenses include medical bills insurance doesn’t cover, travel costs in the event of a family death or damages to valuable property such as a laptop or vehicle.

“There are students who are facing … some real financial emergency that comes up that means they’re going to have to leave graduate school to address that,” said Scott Lanyon, vice provost and dean of graduate education.

The trial run, which started last December, runs throughout the rest of the year. Funding is made available through the dean’s office. After the trial run is over, the office will review demand and adjust funding accordingly, Lanyon said.

“There are a lot of things we can be doing that if this turns out to not be an effective use of time and money, then we’ll go in a different direction,” he said.

The grant is part of Lanyon’s goal to increase diversity — something he said is part of a greater national trend in higher education.

In 2015-2016, about 12 percent of graduating students in master’s and doctoral programs at the University were from minority backgrounds — defined as citizens and permanent residents of African-American, Asian-American, Chicano, American-Indian and Hawaiian ethnicity. Both years saw about a 3 percent increase in minority student graduation.

The office already offers a DOVE fellowship program that focuses on recruiting diverse students to graduate programs, while the grant is meant to help with retention.

Directors of graduate programs can nominate students for the grant. Eligible students include DOVE Fellowship members or other research-focused graduate students.

Once nominated, the Office for Diversity in Graduate Education reviews the nomination to decide if funds are given.

Lanyon said the office has received one grant application and is currently reviewing it.

“I’m very happy that there hasn’t been this flood indicating we have a tremendous number of students facing these emergencies,” he said.

The grant addresses unnoticed problems, said Max Hall, president of the Professional Student Government.

He said implementing something like this hasn’t been discussed in his time as president of PSG, but he’s heard of students facing financial dilemmas, like having a computer break and deciding between purchasing a new laptop or paying rent.

“I think it sounds like a great program,” Hall said.