WASHINGTON—Today, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten announced a landmark $100,000 investment in Believe in Students, a national nonprofit organization focused on addressing financial insecurity among college students and helping meet their basic needs. The AFT funding will support the organization’s FAST Fund (“Faculty and Students Together”), a faculty-run emergency aid program at 30 colleges and universities around the country.
The FAST Fund quickly identifies students struggling to meet their basic needs and gets them the support they need to focus on school. College students have been hit especially hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, with nearly 3 in 5 reporting they have struggled to meet their basic needs over the past year.
“The faculty members involved in the FAST Fund see their students struggling, and they want to help,” said Traci Kirtley, executive director of Believe in Students. “This investment by the AFT demonstrates the deep commitment of educators to help their students succeed.”
The AFT’s six-figure injection will provide matching grants for 14 existing union-affiliated FAST Fund sites, seed funding to launch five new sites, and additional technical and logistical support.
“College students are consistently burdened by the financial means required to keep up with their studies—and COVID-19 has only increased those stressors. All too often, students have to give up on their dreams of a better future simply because they can’t afford it,” said Weingarten.
“The FAST Fund gives students peace of mind by providing cash to those who can’t afford gas to get to campus, the textbooks necessary to keep up in class, or even to keep the lights on in their homes,” she said. “It’s crucial we invest in the future of our country by providing them with the support and resources to thrive.”
The newly selected FAST Fund grant sites include:
Rowan College of South Jersey, Cumberland Campus: Cumberland County College Administrators Association, Local 8362
Miami-Dade College: United Faculty of Miami Dade College, Local 4253
Stony Brook University: United University Professions Stony Brook Center Campus Chapter, Local 2190
University of Illinois Chicago: University of Illinois Chicago United Faculty, Local 6456
Portland Community College: Portland Community College Federation of Faculty and Academic Professionals, Local 2277
Jan Manla, a student in Los Angeles Valley College’s registered nursing program and the mother of a 4-year-old, is a recent recipient of a FAST Fund grant. She lacked many basic resources and was both mentally and physically distracted from her coursework due to extreme temperatures in her home during the summer heat wave. “The FAST Fund grant allowed me to purchase a cooling fan so that I could work in the only quiet place in my home, a closet,” said Manla. “Something so simple as a fan has improved my concentration and allowed me to focus on pursing my dreams and bettering the life of my son. I am so grateful to the FAST Fund for being a lifeline when I needed it the most.”
The FAST Fund was created in 2016 by Sara Goldrick-Rab, a professor of higher education policy and sociology and a member of the AFT's Temple Association of University Professionals. Since its inception, this program has provided financial assistance to more than 10,000 students so they don’t leave school before receiving a degree. Students may use grant money for a wide range of needs, such as fuel for their vehicle, a new computer or tablet, medical or utility bills, groceries, or child care.
To learn more about Believe in Students and the FAST Fund, click here.