Task force aids struggling students

by Emily Brennan, Staff Writer

San Diego State will launch an initiative  to better assist students who are struggling financially.

Faculty, staff, students and administrators came together in October to create the Economic Crisis Response Team and discuss an immediate response plan, which will be available online fall 2015.

Christy Samarkos, associate vice president for Campus Life, said the team came together because the university noticed an increase in the number of students seeking help.

Students may find themselves in a financial crisis for a number of reasons, SDSU’s Communications Director Kimberly Lamke Calderon said.

“Maybe there has been a change in their economic status and their parents both lost their jobs, so the amount of money the parents can supplement has changed,” Calderon said. “We would do something like a change in financial aid status assessment with them to see if they qualify for more state or federal aid.”

The team consists of financial aid staff, counseling and psychological services staff and assistant deans.

“We looked at who it is that students are already reaching out to, and those ended up being the people we had join the team,” Calderon said.

The team’s goal is to help students access resources already available to them, both at the school and in the community by centralizing the information in one place. A website will explain a step-by-step plan to students, and offer them an immediate response, Calderon said.

The response plan’s first step will connect students with resources they need immediately, such as food or shelter. The second step will create a long-term plan to help students find employment options and budget their money. Counseling will also be offered.

Faculty and staff will learn how to direct students to the resources.

The team is also considering partnerships with off-campus resources that will promote the team’s efforts through already existing events. Calderon hopes this will encourage students to come forward and ask for the help they need.

“There is some level of reluctance to come forward because of how they may be perceived, and we want to try and minimize that as much as possible and let them know that they are not being judged,” Calderon said.

Psychology sophomore Taylor Clark said students who are struggling financially will benefit from the team’s efforts.

She was diagnosed with Lupus during her freshman year at SDSU.

Clark said the average amount of money spent each year on medical bills by someone living with Lupus is $20,000.

“I wouldn’t say that it necessarily caused a financial crisis, but it did put a strain on my finances,” Clark said. “I think it would be helpful to have a team like this in place to give the student body a sense of security.”

Currently, several students on the Economic Crisis Response Team are brainstorming ideas for a more marketable and memorable name, Calderon said.

“It is sort of like the flu, people don’t pay attention to what they should do if they have the flu until they have the flu, so we want students to remember that there is something to help them when they find themselves in need,” Calderon said.