Published November 11, 2020
While COVID-19 has forced students and teachers online and disrupted extracurricular activities across campus, it has also increased the number of students and families who aren’t able to cover college costs. And for students preparing to begin college, illness or loss of family income changes everything.
Last year, Scarlet Promise Grants provided financial assistance to 11,000 students, allowing them to attend Rutgers and pursue the careers of their dreams. These grants provide need-based financial aid and close the gaps that some financial aid programs leave for expenses like books, housing, and tuition. At Rutgers, those gaps can represent as much as $10,000 in unmet financial need per student, a total of more than $100 million last year.
Launched in 1991 as Rutgers Assistance Grants, Scarlet Promise Grants are awarded in amounts between $500 and $5,000 per academic year as part of qualified students’ financial aid packages and for emergency support for reasons ranging from the death of a parent to job loss to health emergencies.
The grants are typically awarded to students with a family income of $60,000 or less—students such as Susan Badia, who grew up in New Brunswick, New Jersey, in the university’s shadow, and dreamed of going away to college. “I wanted to go far away. It wasn’t until junior year of high school when I saw the benefits of Rutgers and started weighing the costs.”
Her dreams of making her mark on Wall Street, mixed with her maturing financial sensibilities, kept Badia in New Brunswick when it came time to decide. Forced to move back home amid the pandemic, Badia now calls staying local “the best decision that I never wanted to make.”
Badia said financial aid packages offered her a lot of help, but it wasn’t enough to cover all the bills she faced. A junior finance major, she’s on top of her bills and tuition and thought she’d left no stone unturned investigating all the aid that was available to her. But when she discovered Scarlet Promise Grants, she says it was a game-changer.
“I ended up having fewer loans this year—my sophomore year—than I did my freshman year,” she says. “I could financially feel the difference.”
More impactful than the difference she felt in her checkbook, Badia says, was that the program made her feel like the university had her back and treated her with dignity.
“Once I told my mom and I realized this grant was targeted to students like me, I felt like I was seen,” she says. “It felt like I didn’t have to explain my sob story to everyone who could lend a hand. I didn’t have to tell the financial aid counselor, ‘Oh my god, my mom is the only provider in the house’ … I didn’t have to do all that.”
“They knew the situation and she was able to assist me in getting the grant and making me more aware of it. I just felt cared for.”