Crisis fund helps students get back to normal

Nov. 13, 2013

by Susannah Brooks

No one expects their home to go up in flames, but that’s what happened to the residents of the Casa Blanca Apartments on Sunday, Nov. 10. Some residents left their apartments unsure of when they would be able to return, or whether their possessions might be damaged beyond repair.

In times like this, the Dean of Students Crisis Fund is available to help. Although no students affected by the Casa Blanca fire have yet asked for assistance, the loan fund exists for exactly this situation: an unexpected life circumstance whose consequences could impact a student’s college success.

Anyone enrolled as a student is eligible: undergraduate, graduate, professional or special.

The circumstances vary greatly, says Ervin “Kipp” Cox, assistant dean and director of the Dean of Students Office, within the Division of Student Life.

“If something comes up that is causing you to possibly be at risk of not being successful as a student, that’s what this fund is for,” says Cox.

Frequent causes include unexpected travel, job loss, medical needs or family-related issues.

Unforeseen expense can have a domino effect. A student unable to pay for medical, care-related or transportation expenses might have his or her entire semester or job situation derailed, slowing or preventing successful completion of schoolwork.

Some recent examples of loan circumstances:

  • A student from a distant country must fly home for a funeral – or to renew a passport.
  • A student teacher who must drive to Sun Prairie five days a week faces sudden – and expensive – car repairs. Without a functioning vehicle, the student can’t complete the work required for graduation.
  • A student with children must change childcare providers unexpectedly, but the new provider requires a substantial deposit.

Currently-enrolled students can request loans for up to $500, negotiating a repayment term with staff members. In 2012-2013, the self-sustaining fund provided $31,310 in assistance to more than 50 students.

Cox cautions that the fund is meant to meet unexpected needs.

“The need has to be legitimate – but usually, it is,” he says.

The process is simple: fill out a form online or stop in the Dean of Students Office, 70 Bascom Hall. Within the next 24 hours or so, assistant deans will meet with requestors and discuss the needs as well as the plans for repayment.

“We don’t want them to use financial aid to repay it, because financial aid is for school,” says Cox.

Interestingly, not even all student services staff are aware of the many other loan options available through different university units. Several schools and colleges, including the Law School and CALS, offer short-term loans for immediate needs.