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About the Roadmap
to Effective Emergency Aid

The Roadmap to Effective Emergency Aid guides institutions in transforming informal emergency aid (EA) efforts into a comprehensive program that increases retention and completion.

The Roadmap provides colleges and universities with everything they need – tools, resources, guidance, a step-by-step process, and collaborative and experimental practices – to create an effective program that drives results. The program is delivered through virtual workshops and/or in-person convenings led by Reos Partners, coaching, and an online platform for accessing tools, project management, and collaborating with others.

The program is based on learnings from an intensive pilot program, the Emergency Aid Lab, with higher education institutions that focused on determining how to best develop and implement an effective emergency aid program. Led by Reos Partners and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the lab engaged more than 100 higher education administrators, senior leaders, faculty, and students.

The lab built on several strategic partnerships with higher-education-focused organizations, including NASPA (Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education), NASFAA (National Association of Student Financial Administrators), Single Stop, and Scholarship America.

Cohorts of 5-15 institutions will begin using the Roadmap in 2020. Reos Partners aims to offer the Roadmap to hundreds of institutions across the U.S. over the next five years.

“Before we started, our programs were scattered and siloed, not well advertised, and lots of folks didn’t know about the options. We now have a much more comprehensive approach. The process we’re going through with Reos Partners is really building something sustainable.”
Francisco Valines, Financial Aid, Florida International University

The Case for Creating a Comprehensive Emergency Aid Program


An estimated three million students leave higher education each year as a result of an unexpected expense under $1,000.

A 2016 NASPA study reported that 70 percent of higher education institutions offer some form of EA, yet most EA requests are handled on a case-by-case basis and very few institutions have an established program designed to increase retention.

These issues have only been exacerbated by the impact of COVID-19 US on postsecondary students and institutions. The level of need for Emergency Aid (EA) has risen sharply, a trend that is likely to continue over the coming year. Students are facing a host of issues related to loss of income, housing, health care, and many others that threaten their wellbeing and ability to remain in school.

Preliminary data from institutions that piloted the Roadmap suggest that the process is producing strong results.

Florida International University reports that 88 percent of students who utilized some form of EA between May of 2018 and August of 2019 stayed enrolled or graduated.

Austin Community College’s EA program has yielded a three-fold financial return on investment and EA recipients are returning, semester to semester, and graduating at a higher rate than non-recipients.

Ninety percent of the University of Washington’s 2018-2019 emergency aid recipients enrolled in the following quarter or graduated during the school year. Eighty-two percent of students responded either “no” or “not sure” when asked if they would have been able to continue their enrollment without EA.

Data from other recent studies also suggest that EA is strengthening student success:

The EA Roadmap Process


Teams that undertake the Roadmap process will receive clear guidance and support to:

  • Work in a systemic, collaborative, and experimental way to transform the delivery of EA at their institution
  • Develop an overview of the current state of EA on their campus
  • Assess the gap between the current state and their vision of an effective program
  • Prototype solutions to address the gap, focusing on six pillars (outlined in the following diagram) that have been determined to be critical to effective emergency aid. These solutions will involve the development and implementation of the following:
        • Process for inviting and processing requests that minimizes the burden on students
        • Process for responding to requests that meet students’ holistic needs
        • Communications plan that ensures students, staff, and faculty are aware of EA
        • Funding strategy that supports EA program sustainability
        • Program for tracking data on recipients and EA program effectiveness
        • Policy review process that identifies policies that may be contributing to emergencies


At the end of the Roadmap, each institution will have developed solutions for each of the six pillars and created an effective emergency aid program.

The process is delivered through:


  • Convenings of cohort institution team members to support teams in working in a systemic, experimental, and collaborative way and accelerating progress on their EA programs. These workshops will provide opportunities for skill development, collectively improving prototype solutions, and sharing learnings.
  • Monthly Calls, facilitated by Reos Partners, to deepen skill development, provide guidance on key modules in the Roadmap, and facilitate brainstorming and learning as institutions work on their programs.
  • Coaching for those leading EA programs at institutions.
  • Online Platform for accessing tools, project management, and collaborating with others in between convenings and calls.
“We have made great progress on our EA program because we are collectively committed. It is not solely about the need – that always existed. The difference is that we are working together to leverage change.”
Kristian Wiles, Retention and Academic Support, University of Washington-Seattle

Intensive Pilot Program


Reos Partners worked with teams on five campuses over an 18-month period, guiding them through a process very similar to that outlined in the EA Roadmap.

Teams were comprised of staff members from across campus, representing a wide range of functions.

The five pilot institutions were:

A Community of Practice, with more than 100 individuals from institutions across the U.S., nonprofit organizations, and professional associations, contributed to the project and development of the EA Roadmap.

Reos Partners is an international social enterprise with 20 years’ experience facilitating collaboration to catalyze transformative change on challenging social, environmental, and economic issues.

© 2022 – Reos Partners