SUNY Announces Emergency Aid to Support Degree Completion Among Students

December 18, 2017

$600,000 Donated by Gerstner Family Foundation, Heckscher Foundation for Children

SUNY Impact Foundation to Administer and Study the Effects of Emergency Funding

Albany – The State University of New York and the SUNY Impact Foundation today announced the launch of a student emergency aid pilot program at seven SUNY campuses supported by more than $600,000 in donations from the Gerstner Family Foundation and the Heckscher Foundation for Children. These funds will be awarded to students experiencing an unforeseen financial hardship or emergency situation, with the goal of keeping more students on track toward graduation.

"SUNY recognizes that students are not impervious to crises and we want to do all we can do to support students when a situation arises that will have a lasting impact on their ability to complete college," said SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson. "An emergency aid program at SUNY New Paltz recently awarded funds to 100 students, and 87 percent of them have returned to campus and are on track to finishing their degree. Taking success like that to scale across our 64 campuses can be a real game-changer for SUNY students. We are so thankful to the Gerstner Family Foundation and the Heckscher Foundation for Children for starting us on this path."

"Across the nation, studies report as many as 65 percent of students surveyed who drop out plan to return, but the sad truth is that only 38 percent ultimately do," said SUNY Impact Foundation Executive Director Christine Fitzgibbons. "We are excited to implement and manage this grant program to provide aid to our students in the short-term, and assess the impact on retention and graduation rates moving forward."

"A financial emergency for the neediest of students can be the beginning of the end of their college experience," said Peter Sloane, Chairman and CEO of The Heckscher Foundation for Children. "Partnering with a dynamic foundation like the Gerstner Family Foundation and a leading university system like SUNY and its esteemed new leader, Kristina Johnson, is consistent with our venture philanthropy approach to helping underserved youth achieve self-sufficiency."

"Our experience creating and supporting emergency grant programs over the past decade has convinced us that they can have a tremendous impact on people’s lives." said Kara Klein, Executive Director of the Gerstner Family Foundation. "We are thrilled to be partnering with the terrific teams at Heckscher and SUNY to leverage what we’ve learned and collaboratively take it to the next level to help many students overcome a crisis and stay on track toward achieving their goals."

SUNY Impact Foundation will administer the program, collect data, and study the effects of the emergency funding. Initial grant awards, dependent upon undergraduate enrollment, range from $50,000 to $100,000 per SUNY campus with an additional 10 percent of the grant amount available to cover direct administrative expenses. Grants were awarded to these seven SUNY campuses: University at Albany, University at Buffalo, SUNY Buffalo State, Cayuga Community College, Dutchess Community College, SUNY Oneonta, and SUNY Orange.

Emergency aid will be given to help students facing an unforeseen event or an unexpected need for aid such as homelessness or threat of eviction, medical emergency, natural disaster, domestic violence, theft, and loss of employment. Examples of eligible expenses include rent, utilities, clothing, furniture, medical expenses, back-up child care, back-up transportation, and replacement of stolen items needed for school.

The Impact Foundation’s near-term goal is to facilitate communication between the funding foundations and the participating SUNY schools, to monitor adherence to program guidelines, and to facilitate collection and analysis of data collected from the schools. Long-term goals include expansion in the SUNY system and achieving measurable increases in retention and graduation rates amongst SUNY’s low-income students, and improved income mobility.

Pilot campuses will provide information about the student emergency program in the beginning of the Spring 2018 term when students may start to apply. To be eligible to apply for an emergency grant, a student must be enrolled in at least six credits and must be seeking a bachelor’s or associate degree.

About the Gerstner Family Foundation

The Gerstner Family Foundation was founded in 1989 by Louis V. Gerstner, Jr., retired chairman and CEO of IBM, and his family. The Foundation seeks to help hard-working individuals who are trying to help themselves and their communities but temporarily lack the resources to accomplish their goals. Its work concentrates on biomedical research, education, and assisting people who have suffered a setback through its Helping Hands emergency grant programs. Most grants are made in New York, Boston, and Palm Beach County, communities where the Gerstner family lives and works. To learn more, please visit

About the Heckscher Foundation for Children

The Heckscher Foundation was founded in 1921 to promote the welfare of children in the State of New York and elsewhere throughout the United States. The primary aim of the Heckscher Foundation’s grantmaking is to "level the playing field" for needy youth by providing access to education and the varied experiences that make for a richer, forward-reaching life. It seeks to identify under-funded issues or projects that can provide widespread benefit, generate other engagement and funding, and then help leverage that interest to scale. The Foundation also seeks to incubate ideas and initiatives that will lead to high-impact services and improved opportunities. To learn more, please visit

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, and more than 95 percent of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of any one of SUNY's 64 colleges and universities. Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, a law school, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. In total, SUNY serves about 1.3 million students amongst its entire portfolio of credit- and non-credit bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide are nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2021, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are more than three million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunity, visit

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