by Ann Wright, vice president for advancement, Greenville Tech Foundation
It started when business was slow and Lillie’s hours were cut for a couple of weeks, which led to a juggling of money for rent and food, leaving nothing remaining for a tank of gas. It could have ended with Lillie giving up her classes for the semester since she didn’t have a way to get to campus. But instead, Lillie fought with her pride and won, reaching out to the Greenville Tech Foundation to explain her predicament and finding a little bit of emergency money. That help was enough to buy the gas, ride out the rough moment and stay in class, putting her closer to the degree and the career that will ease the struggle once and for all.
It doesn’t take much to put the dominos into motion. For some health care students, it’s the cost of uniforms and equipment that wasn’t in the budget. For others, it’s a book they can’t afford that means they fall behind in class. A late fee on a power bill, internet required for online studies, a small unpaid balance from last semester that prevents registering for this one, a transcript fee they didn’t anticipate: seemingly small expenses can become major obstacles to completing a degree.
At Greenville Technical College, 56% of our students experienced at least one form of basic needs insecurity last year. Half of the students qualify as low income. For these students who are already struggling, one unexpected expense can easily become a barrier to staying in class, graduating and succeeding. Students who fail to complete their degree hurt our community as much as they hurt themselves. That is because postsecondary degree completers help grow the size of our local economy, and we all benefit from that.
Most of our students hate to ask for help. When they finally do, we want to be able to say yes to these requests. It takes the generosity of donors in our community, supporting students and building our area’s workforce by doing so, to tell our students that the crisis they are facing can be managed.
Last year, the Greenville Tech Foundation distributed $55,477 to 165 students with emergency needs. Those funds paid the rent, kept the water on and helped with tuition. But more than that, based on the thank-you notes we received, the assistance provided hope and let students know that someone cares about their progress and is willing to demonstrate that care by making sure needs are met.
Small support makes a huge difference, as it did to this student recently. “GTC was my choice for nursing due to their outstanding reputation,” she wrote. “My husband passed away 11/30/20 unexpectedly. Final expenses have been a burden on me and my family, and with Christmas around the corner, I wasn’t sure what I was going to be able to do so that I could attend my last semester of the nursing program. I am so appreciative of this blessing. I never imagined that I would be a widow at 35.”
That support also makes a difference to the community. More future nurses, respiratory therapists, machinists, dental hygienists, paralegals and computer technicians are able to complete their studies and move into the workforce. More employers are able to grow because their hiring needs have been met.
Our ask isn’t necessarily for thousands of dollars, although that level of support would be welcome. Many times, less than $300 can be all it takes to keep a student on track to graduate, get a new career, achieve economic mobility and completely change the trajectory of a family. Please contact the Greenville Tech Foundation at greenvilletechfoundation.org/how-to-help.php or 864-250-8835 if you can assist today.