Safety Net emergency funds system lauded by students, administrators
In the fall of 2018, Yale College launched a new website to help undergraduates manage their money and budgets. This included a new online funding request system called Safety Net, which offers support to undergraduates during times of emergency and unexpected financial hardship. Students also have access through this site to the LIT Financial Education Program which teaches students how to manage their money while in school and prepare for financial life after graduation.
This service, which is free to any undergraduate, was developed by Tara Falcone ’11. The program presents a series of 80 short videos that cover important topics in personal finance and money management. On top of the core curriculum, students also have access to live webinars on trending money topics, as well as direct interaction with Falcone via comments and social media.
Since the launch last year, more than 2,800 users have visited the site, with an average of 400 visitors per month. In just the first month, more than 100 requests were received through Safety Net, the majority of which (63%) were requests for funding to purchase winter clothing.
Every Safety Net request goes through a rigorous assessment process to make sure that priority is given to students with the highest need. Currently, the system handles eight request categories: winter clothing, technology expenses, support during breaks, medical expense, job/national fellowship interviews; emergency travel (prearrival and departure expense), books and academic supplies, and “other.”
Students say they find the site easy to navigate and on average spend five to eight minutes to complete and submit a request.
“The portal was extremely easy to use and provided the financial support that I desperately needed,” said one Branford College student. “The support of the Safety Net Portal allowed me to travel back home and participate in a scholarship interview that I wouldn't have been able to afford otherwise. I have also met many people that have used the Safety Net to access funds for winter clothing. Everyone that I have talked to has been better off because of the Safety Net Portal.”
Yale administrators have also been enthusiastic by the development of the portal.
“I think Safety Net is a wonderful addition to our administrative resources for undergraduate students,” said David Evans, head of Berkeley College. “Previously, students with unexpected financial needs would approach their college head or dean, who have access to limited amounts of uncommitted resources for these exceptional circumstances. Safety Net provided a synoptic view of the whole panoply of requests, and helped me make better-informed decisions on where my college’s funds could be the most beneficial to specific student needs.”
Yale College Dean Marvin Chun said: “Thanks to Safety Net, Yale College can now respond nimbly when students ask for help meeting unexpected needs. And because Safety Net brings together requests and resources in one place, it has made the process of identifying and allocating funds transparent, efficient, and fair. For the first time, Yale College can now survey the range of students’ emergency needs, budget for them in advance, and direct students to resources that can support them.”
Phase II of Safety Net was launched in February 2019, with multiple new administrative features. Offices with funds to distribute to students across Yale College have displayed keen interest in the success of the portal, as have colleagues from other institutions, and the Safety Net team is already working on the next iteration.