A Worthy Cause: Bravo to Sara Goldrick-Rab


Sara Goldrick-Rab

Temple University Professor Sara Goldrick-Rab’s book, Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American Dream, is one of the most important books on higher education to appear in recent years. The book demonstrates, through both comprehensive data and often heart-wrenching personal stories, how U.S. students have been left behind by soaring costs combined with a financial aid system that is both inadequate and unfair. The result is a generation that can’t get ahead because of crushing debt and unfinished degrees. “This book is intended to be a wake-up call,” writes Goldrick-Rab, who teaches higher education policy and sociology. “It brings the lives of students pursuing college degrees front and center and unveils their financial struggles.”

Now Goldrick-Rab, whose Wisconsin Hope Lab continues to document the growth of student need, including hunger and homelessness, has been awarded a prestigious Grawemeyer Award in Education by the University of Louisville.  The award comes with a $100,000 prize and in a bold and marvelous move Goldrick-Rab announced yesterday that she will be giving it all away!

Goldrick-Rab will be matching all donations to the Faculty and Students Together (FAST) Fund, which she began last year, at a rate of three-to-one and will continue to match donations until the entire $100,000 prize is spent down.  In announcing her decision Goldrick-Rab wrote:

The Faculty And Students Together (FAST) Fund cuts out the bureaucracy and puts money in the hands of teachers around the country — the people on the front line of this fight — in order to get emergency dollars to students swiftly. My research team and I have studied emergency aid like this for years, and found that often it’s a smaller amount of money given at the right time that makes the difference between a student staying in college or dropping out. This money can help make students’ immediate survival possible, while we also work to create the systemic change to solve the root causes of this problem.

Here are three examples of what emergency aid money from the FAST Fund has been used for so far, from the Milwaukee Area Technical College:

— A student had taken five early childhood education courses and paid for her Early Childhood Administrator credential. She did not have the $300 license fee that would allow her to be employed. The FAST Fund was used to paid the $300 fee.

— A business student was homeless for three weeks after aging out of foster care. Spending nights at Dunkin Donuts, he was living out of his suitcase and cleaning up at MATC at 6 AM when it opened. The FAST Fund provided him with $345 to secure temporary housing and purchase food.

— A paralegal student, the working mother of four children under the age of ten, was abandoned by her partner, who left her with very little money. She and her children were facing eviction because she was $400 short on her rent. The FAST Fund provided her with the money to prevent the eviction.

Here is how it works: Donations made beginning on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017, will be matched at a rate of three-to-one (i.e., a donation of $50.00 from Jane Doe will be matched by a $150.00 donation). This matching will continue until all $100,000 of the prize has been donated to the FAST Fund.

You can donate to the FAST Fund online, or checks can be made payable to the nonprofit Believe in Students, Inc., and mailed to:

Believe in Students, Inc.

P.O. Box 37199

Philadelphia, PA 19148

All of your donations are tax deductible and they help real people working to make a better life.

According to the fund’s website, the FAST Fund currently works with the following schools: California State University—Long Beach, California; Nash Community College, Rocky Mount, North Carolina; Columbus State Community College, Columbus, Ohio; Bunker Hill Community College, Boston, Massachusetts; and Milwaukee Area Technical College, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

I only had the privilege of meeting Goldrick-Rab once, and very briefly, but I’ve admired and learned from her work for some time.  I know she has no illusions that these donations will solve a problem that, as she has demonstrated, is systemic.  Nonetheless, every little bit helps.  Both the Jewish Talmud and the Quran teach that “Whoever saves but one life, saves the world.”  As an engaged scholar Goldrick-Rab is working to save both individual lives and the world, through both her scholarship and her charity.  She is a genuine professor-hero.  I applaud her.

As soon as I post this I will be donating to the FAST Fund.  I hope you will too.  Please do so here.

Sara Goldrick-Rab with Students (from the FAST Fund website)

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