It was late 2017 when an Iowa State alumnus stepped forward with a generous donation. The money sparked the creation of the LAS Success Grant Program, which has transformed the lives, careers and futures of many Iowa State students.
In addition to providing much-needed emergency funds, the program provides personalized guidance, financial planning and resource referrals that empower students to carve out fresh beginnings and new accomplishments.
Louise Jennings, (’19 geology) received an LAS Success Grant during the first semester of her senior year. She describes the program as “life changing.”
“This is about who we are at Iowa State and also who our alumni are. This community is full of kind, giving people. It’s astounding how many people reach back to help the university and its students move forward.”
“The individual help and compassion that I received was the kind of treatment that smaller colleges insist only happens on their small campuses,” said Jennings. “I felt supported by Iowa State in ways that went far beyond money. Caring administrators listened and directed me to services and resources, ensuring that next semester I was on solid ground.”
Kent Kerby, assistant dean and adjunct professor of genetics, development, and cell biology, serves as one of the program administrators. Applying for the LAS Success Grant involves students sitting down with Kerby to discuss their immediate financial needs as well as a long-term plan of action. He also provides financial counseling and tailored blueprints which are designed to help students stay in school and reach the finish line.
“It’s unbelievable how many lives have been changed,” said Kerby. “The program allows students to move forward, so they can focus on their studies. A weight is lifted for many of these students.”
Getting students get back on track
Since the program’s inception in 2017, $47,000 has been administered to 52 students in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Awards have ranged from $250 to $1,500, depending on the financial need and each student’s circumstances.
LAS Success Grants are considered a one-time, emergency award that must be applied to an outstanding university bill. Students who apply must have a 2.0 GPA or higher, an outstanding university bill and a primary major within the LAS College.
“The individual help and compassion that I received was the kind of treatment that smaller colleges insist only happens on their small campuses. I felt supported by Iowa State in ways that went far beyond money."
“The process was easy. I filled out an online application and within twenty minutes I received a phone call asking me to come in,” said Jurnie Hinde. “I met with Kent Kerby, explained my circumstances and when he said, ‘We’ll get you to the next step’ I nearly cried.”
Mary Ullestad-Heneke, LAS undergraduate scholarship coordinator, notes that the reasons students apply for the LAS Success Grants are as varied as the students themselves. “Some students have outstanding charges from the student health center or materials for a foreign language class that were costly,” she said. “One student needed help with buying books and another couldn’t afford to purchase a graduation cap and gown.”
Many students face job losses, expensive car repairs or unplanned medical bills that leave them unable to afford college expenses.
“These students have done nothing wrong. They’re working hard and doing the right things,” said Ullestad-Heneke. “However, these life circumstances often force students to temporarily drop out.”
The university registrar places a temporary hold on student accounts that have outstanding university balances. This leaves students unable to register for classes. These holds are lifted only after the remaining balances are paid.
“I met with Kent Kerby, explained my circumstances and when he said, ‘We’ll get you to the next step’ I nearly cried.”
This is where the LAS Success Grant can make a difference.
“I’m amazed at the alumni who so graciously give scholarships, grants and financial aid to our students,” said Ullestad-Heneke. “These amazing donors entrust us with these funds, which gives us the freedom to help students in need and together our community rallies around these students.”
“The keys to the way forward”
Jurnie Hinde (’21 biochemistry) was maxed out on federal student loans, working two jobs and fully self-funding her college education. Her unpaid tuition bill loomed like a dark cloud, threatening to rain down on her plans to earn a biochemistry degree.
Hinde applied for and received a grant. She used the funds to pay off her university bill, which enabled her to register for next semester's classes. She also capitalized on the help, compassion and resources that were offered throughout the process.
Kerby informed her about the availability of undergraduate research grants for students. Hinde is now getting paid to research blood flow and the microvasculature of the skin for an Iowa State kinesiology lab.
Since the program’s inception in 2017, $47,000 has been administered to 52 students in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
“This program was more than a financial boost; it was the keys to the way forward,” said Hinde. “It was so remarkable to know that Kent Kerby and the Iowa State community were so invested in my success. The grant made me more motivated to accomplish great things.”
Hinde has plans to continue working in research, graduate from Iowa State and attend medical school. She hopes to work with children.
Fueling student success
Providing a unique fusion of financial, administrative and resource-oriented services, the LAS Success Grant program illustrates Iowa State’s commitment to helping students realize their academic and career dreams.
“This is about who we are at Iowa State and also who our alumni are,” said Kerby. “This community is full of kind, giving people. It’s astounding how many people reach back to help the university and its students move forward.”
Demonstrating the deep bench of support and community that comes with an ISU education, the program is fueled by a unique collaboration between donors, ISU administration, the financial aid office—and a network of academic advisors who speak with students daily.
“This program was more than a financial boost; it was the keys to the way forward.”
When $800 is the difference between a student staying in school or dropping out, those donations are both impactful and important.
“Eight hundred dollars is a lot of money to a college student. That’s often two months of working a part-time job,” said Kerby. “Many people understand that these financial predicaments can often prevent a student from completing their education.”
Kerby said that Iowa State students who receive funds from the LAS Success Grant program are very appreciative and grateful, noting that they’re quick to share their successes and milestones as they continue on with their Iowa State journeys.
“Receiving this money and guidance gave me so much Cyclone pride for the whole community here at Iowa State,” said Jennings. “Everyone who was involved with the LAS Success Grant process, made me feel that I was valued and that my story mattered.”
“You can’t put a price on that,” said Jennings. “In the short term, I’ll graduate because of the help that was provided; and in the long term I’ll always feel proud of attending such an amazing university that truly cared about me.”