Beam’s New Report with United Way & Believe in Students Highlights Importance of Student Emergency Grants in King County, WA

Pilot program distributed $150,000 in emergency funding to over 250 students in five months across three local colleges
February 14, 2023

A new report from national nonprofit, Believe in Students, documents the impact and learnings from an emergency financial grant pilot program in King County, WA. The pilot began in 2020 through a new partnership between United Way of King County, Beam (formerly known as Edquity) and Believe in Students to test strategies for equitably and efficiently distributing emergency financial grants.

Partners distributed $150,000 in emergency funding between December 2020 and April 2021, to 251 students attending Bellevue College, Green River College, and Highline College. The pilot was funded by the National Philanthropic Trust as recommended by the Schultz Family Foundation.

Although students plan for the cost of tuition, fees, and textbooks, for many there remains significant costs for food, housing, childcare, transportation and emergencies. There is evidence that emergencies are more common than ever in higher education. A 2022 survey of students commissioned by the Washington Student Achievement Council found that 50.1% of Washington community college students face basic needs insecurity while 23.5% of students reported experiencing both food and housing insecurity. And, American Indian/Alaskan Native and Black/African American respondents experienced significantly higher rates of basic needs insecurity than White respondents.  

Emergency financial grants, provided in tandem with other basic needs services, help students address unexpected financial crises that may otherwise cause them to withdraw from school.

This pilot project was a catalyst for United Way to convene partners and develop the Washington Postsecondary Basic Needs Coalition. The Coalition is now advocating with state legislators in Olympia to support a holistic strategy for implementing and funding basic needs resources, including emergency grants, navigation, food, and housing for Washington college students.

“It’s hard enough being a student today without worrying about financial hardship or how to access support for basic needs, like housing, food, or medical expenses. Beam is proud to partner with United Way of King County and Believe In Students to remove administrative barriers to getting emergency funds to students quickly and easily so they can focus on what’s important: completing their educational coursework and making their long-term goals become reality.”

David Helene, CEO and founder of Beam

“This partnership came together quickly as COVID-19 hit the country, with Washington state on the front lines. We are incredibly proud of the partnership we forged to support students facing unprecedented threats to their basic needs, and grateful for the quick response of the philanthropic community to support an approach that placed such faith in students.”

Traci Kirtley, Executive Director of Believe in Students

“Basic Needs insecurity among college students is a threat to an equitable economic recovery. And we have solutions. By leading with trust, centering equity, developing effective partnerships, and investing at the scale of the need we can ensure students have the resources they need to persist in college and achieve their dreams. We urge the Washington State Legislature to invest in these solutions in 2023.”

Gordon McHenry, Jr., President and CEO of United Way of King County

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