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Back on Track

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“My life went sideways and never really got back on track.”

At least, that’s how it felt for Lisa after she left a bad marriage and needed to raise her young daughter on her own. (Lisa has asked that her last name not be disclosed.)

Without a college degree or much work experience, Lisa worked low-paying jobs to pay rent and purchase food. Finishing the degree she started at Utah State University in 2001 seemed like an impossible expense to add. Then in 2019, Lisa, tired of facing an uncertain future and “hovering at the poverty line,” decided it was time to finish her degree.

“I was raised to be a mom,” she says.

College was the first time Lisa realized that school could be fun and that she could handle the work. But she swerved from that path with marriage and motherhood.

“Now I will finish. It might take until I am 60,” she laughs, “but I will finish.”

The Student Emergency Hardship Fund allowed her to begin course correcting her life. Since 2015, the fund has awarded scholarships to 225 USU students facing unexpected circumstances such as job or housing loss, the death a family member, divorce, or medical bills that could disrupt their education. In 2018–19, the average scholarship awarded was $1,877.45. This emergency funding can make the difference between a student staying in school or dropping out.

“I never would have started school [without it],” Lisa says.

The night before classes began, she went online to look up room numbers and a blank screen. Her financial aid hadn’t come through yet. Lisa spent the next day in her adviser’s office stitching together a schedule.

“Everything was a wreck,” she says. “I couldn’t even buy gas.”

It took weeks to sort out. In the interim, she was directed to the Vice President for Student Affairs office and told about the Student Emergency Hardship Fund. The money allowed Lisa to buy books, pay off a computer she purchased for school, and covered some medical expenses.

“It gave me my start when there wasn’t anything else. And I am so grateful,” she says.

Lisa is now solidly in the groove of school. She knows what she is doing. And she knows a brighter future exists. Her daughter, now 20, has just enrolled at Snow College.

“I feel like I let her down in so many ways,” Lisa says. “But she really wants to go to college. I’m dialed in. I can help with that.”

With her own graduation still a few semesters away, Lisa knows it’s possible and she is excited for the future “to have a career,” she says. “Something that will be meaningful to me, that will pay the bills, and just to say ‘I did it.’”

Visit here for information about the Student Emergency Hardship Fund or to give to the scholarship.

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