During the pandemic, colleges and their students sought out ways to address college affordability and secure their basic needs. Recent federal investments in higher education provide the resources to meet the present need. Yet, distributing support equitably and efficiently remains a struggle. The American Rescue Plan Act requires colleges and universities to implement practices supporting the distribution of emergency aid and conduct outreach to students regarding the potential to receive adjustments to their federal financial aid (US Department of Education, 2021). However, it provides little guidance on how institutions should achieve these goals. This paper identifies a promising first step in improving student outcomes and inequitable allocation of those resources: the web-based Edquity emergency aid application.
Results from our study, which was implemented across a large Texas community college system, suggest that students who applied for and received emergency aid using the Edquity app were able to improve their GPA in the term in which the aid was disbursed. Impacts on other outcomes were generally positive but statistically indistinguishable from zero, owing at least in part to the small sample size for this study. Nevertheless, the results suggest that the most salient effect of emergency aid is its potential to help students complete their courses during a period of unforeseen financial hardship. Colleges should explore other ways to ensure the short-term impacts of emergency aid receipt translate to longer-term outcomes including retention and completion.