Brown Foundation invests in OC

Posted on October 7, 2020

Odessa American

As colleges and universities across the country work to contain COVID-19 outbreaks and protect students, faculty, and staff members, the uncertainty of how the term will play out on local campuses has left the degree-earning potential of thousands of college students hanging by a thread.

The Prentice Farrar & Alline Ford Brown Foundation, Bank of America, announced a two-year, $1.76 million grant that will help support college students’ access to basic needs at four West Texas higher-education institutions that serve about 60,000 college students from the Panhandle through West Texas: Amarillo College, El Paso Community College, Odessa College and South Plains Community College.

The grant includes a significant investment in emergency aid for students that, in most cases, will nearly double the amount of aid available to students, a news release said.

The grant is managed by Believe in Students, the nation’s only nonprofit organization focused exclusively on supporting college students’ living expenses.

“In terms of college students’ financial challenges, many of us think about big dollars, like tuition,” Traci Kirtley, executive director of BIS said. “But often it’s a small dollar shortfall — an unexpected car repair, the inability to pay for adequate groceries, or, during the pandemic, internet access — that affects a student’s ability to continue their higher education journey.”

To get the funds to students quickly, they will be distributed by Edquity… Edquity helps students apply for emergency aid in less than 10 minutes using an app. They receive a response in less than 24 hours, and receive aid within 48 hours. This allows college staff to focus on advising and supporting students, rather than pushing paperwork.

“We are truly grateful for OC’s inclusion in this grant. These funds will further assist our students in covering their needs during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Brown Foundation’s investment will help Odessa College continue to support our students in pursuit of their dreams to obtain their college education,” OC President Gregory D. Williams said in the release.

Data and evidence are critical to sustaining the provision of emergency aid throughout Texas. This fall the grant will also allow the Hope Center for College Community and Justice to field surveys to assess students’ need for emergency aid and their experiences seeking it. The Hope Center will conduct an evaluation to examine the impact of this investment in West Texas students and inform future initiatives, the release said.