Critical Support for Scheidel Scholars

by Lydia Scheufler

The Scheidel Scholarship Program at Florida State College of Jacksonville (FSCJ) aims to reach underserved communities of students, many of whom represent first-generation college students. First-generation students deserve a fair chance at success and graduation, but often face challenges that their non-first-generation counterparts do not. How do the Scheidel Scholars, often the first in their families to receive higher educations, seek guidance to overcome obstacles that they face in their college journey? 

Individualized Advice Guides the Scholars’ Experiences

As the Scheidel Scholar Coordinator at FSCJ, Luann Risoli helps scholars navigate all aspects of college life. She believes that the scholars “have the capabilities to do great things but aren’t able to achieve their goals because of their circumstances. It is important to help them reach those goals”. Luann aims to do just that with the Scheidel Scholars. She has her own objectives acting as their advisor: to create personal relationships with them, identify and address challenges to their student success, provide community and campus resources, encourage them, and finally attend their graduation.

Currently consisting of 38 students between the ages of 18 and 55, the Scheidel Scholars at FSCJ most often pursue Associate degrees that aid in job advancement and the ability to pursue a Bachelor’s degree. Many scholars attend college part-time and take more than two years to complete their degrees. This is a common occurrence amongst first-generation students, and many scholars struggle to balance family life, work, and school. The distressing thought of navigating college without familial resources can sabotage first-generation students’ self-confidence and lead them to quit before they even truly begin their education. One of Luann’s key roles is to help the scholars demystify and navigate the various requirements, processes, policies, and other new experiences that can confuse and derail them in their first terms. She also connects them to campus resources and holds monthly scholar workshops on topics relevant to school, career, and personal development.

Regular Check-ins and Targeted, Responsive Support Are Key to Success

Luann utilizes a “student-centered, multi-system approach to ensure that each student has the opportunity to be successful.” It is important to take individualized approaches to guide each scholar. That may be why Luann has found forming personal relationships with scholars to be one of the most useful tools in bettering their experiences. By cultivating relationships, Luann is able to identify and help with unique problems that arise. She can also recognize students at greater risk at an early stage and apply a more targeted approach to their success. By actively engaging with students, Luann is also able to keep track of situations that trigger students to drop out along with methods that help students stay on track and graduate. This information allows her to adjust her advisory processes to increase the student success rate.

The Scholars are among those who have been disproportionately impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. They have faced absences not only due to illness but also lack of access to the technology needed to participate in online courses and increased work hours to address financial situations at home. Luann has helped the Scholars respond to these issues by checking in more frequently, finding new resources to help the students, and creating smaller workshops for students outdoors.

Data Plays an Increasingly Important Role

Luann is also turning to historical data to learn more about what it takes to help students succeed. She is currently working to create a new database to analyze information on scholars going back to 2005. The goal is to find trends in students’ success by assessing the statistics of scholars who persisted at FSCJ. Additionally, enrollment and retention rates at FSCJ are decreasing due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. As a result, higher education systems are working to create data-driven retention strategies. Overall, the data will help Luann and the Scheidel Foundation identify and implement systems to increase student success and guide more first-generation students to their graduation.

By Lydia Scheufler

Choosing a career can be a daunting task. Recent graduates of high school, college, or persons looking for a future profession often struggle to find a place to begin their career path. JAXUSA Partnership created a set of career pathways on its website to guide Jacksonville, FL citizens in plotting their employment and academic goals. The Scheidel Foundation helped fund the “Career Pathways” section of Earn Up’s website as a critical tool for students seeking answers about the value of various higher education paths in Jacksonville.

Easy-to-Use, Factual, and Up-to-Date Information for All Users

Career Pathways is a free source of credible information, emphasizing two of the most important factors of any business community. First, it focuses on high-growth careers in the Jacksonville region. For example, one can easily explore the site to learn that Advanced Manufacturing employs 20,841 people in the region, offers many diverse careers, and pays $71,447 on average. Second, it helps guide individuals along an educational path showing how to earn qualifications for those jobs. The visitor can learn about future job projections, how to enter the field at any stage from entry to upper level, and which local higher ed institutions offer qualifying certifications or degrees for the field of interest. The information is data-driven and updated regularly.

One of the major ways the organization makes this information accessible is through its videos. Each section of the Career Pathways microsite, which highlights a key Jacksonville industry, contains multiple versions:

  • “Hype” videos are quick overviews of the sector that may grab a casual browser’s attention. 
  • “Industry Deep Dive” videos provide more specifics. They are great resources for educators who can easily share with students in a classroom setting or with multiple parties.

JAXUSA Partnership conducts outreach to educators and companies, encouraging them to use the site and its videos among classrooms and clients. Educator resources are provided to help guide lessons and individuals can log onto the site at any time to explore the resources on their own. The campaign has been quite successful so far.

Helping Individuals Connect to Career Opportunities

JAXUSA Partnership launched this campaign after finding that 42% of individuals surveyed in the community were unaware of career opportunities or pathways. A need to inform constituents such as students, adults, veterans, and parents about growing industries and how to break into them became integral to the EarnUp platform.

As a result, the Career Pathways microsite was designed to connect these members of the community to resources, companies, and educators, making it easier for them to form educational and career decisions and to increase talent amongst Jacksonville’s workforce. Dr. Anna Lebesch, Vice President of Talent at JAXUSA, says the goal of the campaign is alignment. By helping community members identify career opportunities and what it takes to qualify for them, the hoped-for result is a “talent ecosystem” that better meets the needs of residents and industries alike.

By Lydia Scheufler

A massive influx of students in need of aid due to the COVID-19 pandemic brought emergency relief programs to the spotlight. Many are unaware that emergency grants, a specific type of relief program, had already been a growing trend on college campuses. It’s easy to understand their popularity – the grant programs are effective, relatively low-cost, and adaptable.

Small, but Significant

Emergency grant programs address the temporary setbacks that can place low-income students in vulnerable positions and threaten their college careers. Such complications aren’t covered by typical financial aid but can be remedied with small sums of money. They include high or extra living expenses such as rent, utility bills, car repairs, healthcare, or childcare.

These small yet impactful boosts, help students remain focused on their education in times of crisis. We have seen several programs positively influence student success, much like the following three examples:

  • Florida State College of Jacksonville launched its Student Emergency Aid Fund (SEA-Fund) in 2019 with a grant from the Scheidel Foundation. As of summer 2022, 78% of recipients completed the term in which they received grants, while 84% re-enrolled in the successive semester. For comparison, FSCJ’s campus-wide fall-to-fall persistence rate was 54% from 2019-2020.
  • The Great Lakes emergency grant program also reported positive outcomes.  From 2012-2015, 73% of recipients graduated or continued enrollment. National Center for Education Statistics cites 59% as the average retention rate of public two-year schools. 
  • Scholarship America established emergency grants in 2020 and has seen 95% of its recipients complete the term they were enrolled in and 88% reenroll for the next term.

How Do Emergency Grants Make a Difference?

In 2005, the Lumina Foundation for Education created two of the earliest well-documented emergency financial aid programs, the Dreamkeepers and Angel Funds. According to the Helios Education Foundation, there were at least 100 Emergency aid programs in the United States by 2015.

It’s no surprise that emergency funds are now nationally widespread, as they provide many advantages that other supports may not – for a cost often less than $1,000 per pupil.. Existing programs demonstrate that emergency grants:

  • Increase retention and graduation rates  
  • Provide relief to students’ mental health 
  • Are flexible solutions that can cover diverse issues 
  • Resolve obstacles quickly 
  • Avoid a lasting burden, like loans 

Strengthening the Success of Programs

As more colleges put emergency grants to use, some key aspects tend to improve their success. The following suggestions can improve the efficiency of programs and ultimately provide support to at-risk students.

  • Ensure quick turnaround times of grant allocations to promptly deal with emergencies and enable recipients to focus on their education.
  • Keep data to show the retention and graduation rates of recipients. 
  • Train faculty to identify and work with vulnerable students.
  • Encourage communication between students and program administrators to create a safe space while finding solutions to difficult situations.  

Programs Can Be Modified to Meet the Needs of Colleges and Students

Dispersal of emergency grants can vary between schools. This allows programs to be adaptable so colleges can adjust their eligibility criteria to serve distinct demographics of students. They are also able to use unique techniques to fine-tune the operations of their programs. 

 Examples of common variations in programs include: 

  • Definition of emergency
  • Student’s GPA minimum or course completeness
  • Maximum number of grants students may receive
  • Obligation to see an advisor
  • Requirement of documentation of the emergency
  • Advertisement of aid versus targeting students who may be in need 

Some colleges are seeing to it that their programs evolve alongside technology, using modern platforms to actively promote emergency aid options to the student body. Kingsborough Community College offers a mobile app that offers information about emergency aid options, directing students to the necessary offices on campus where they can request grants. 

Other colleges, like FSCJ, take a more proactive approach by identifying students who may need the aid. Advisors and student affairs staff are often the first to know of students in crisis or with unmet needs and play a large role in recognizing opportunities to offer emergency aid. This method ensures grants are directed at those most in need but does require thorough training of faculty members. 

Want to Learn More?

Check out Student ARC, which serves as an excellent online source of resources and tools related to student aid.