A new initiative from an alliance of educational technology companies and education-focused nonprofits will target emergency aid to college students affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, building on $1.1 million in initial funding.

The initial funding — which organizers hope will inspire further contributions from corporate and philanthropic donors — comes from Course Hero, a company that operates an online platform for sharing course materials; the ECMC Foundation, which is focused on college success for students from underserved backgrounds; and Imaginable Futures, a philanthropic investment firm focused on education.

In the first phase of the initiative, Course Hero will work with five education-related nonprofits to raise awareness and distribute funds. Partners for the first round include Achieving the Dream, a network of community colleges; the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, a group of public colleges; Excelencia in Education, a group focused on the academic success of Latinx students; and the University Innovation Alliance, a coalition of public research universities focused on increasing graduation rates among low-income and first-generation college students and students of color.

The second phase involves a partnership with Edquity, which developed an app through which students can apply for emergency aid from their colleges and receive funds directly in their bank accounts, and the nonprofit organization Believe in Students, which focuses on alleviating poverty among college students.

Only students enrolled at colleges that partner with Edquity, or those who have signed up to use Course Hero, will be eligible to apply for aid in the second phase. Sara Goldrick-Rab, the chief strategy officer for emergency aid at Edquity and a professor of higher education and sociology at Temple University in Philadelphia, said Edquity’s partnering colleges include seven community colleges in Dallas, two in Seattle and one in Los Angeles, and that additional colleges are in the process of signing on. She said the cost for colleges to partner with Edquity is generally in the range of $3 to $3.50 per student.

Goldrick-Rab, who is also founder of the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice at Temple and is on the board of Believe in Students, emphasized the importance of getting money to students who were excluded from the $6 billion in federal emergency student aid provided through the CARES Act. A U.S. Department of Education rule limited the awards only to students who are eligible for federal aid under Title IV of the Higher Education Act and barred undocumented and international students from accessing the funds. Goldrick-Rab said the restriction, in practice, also excludes students who did not formally apply for federal financial aid, such as those who are estranged from their families and can’t access the tax returns they need to apply. She said this group includes a disproportionate number of LGBTQ students.

“I wanted to call this ‘the believe in all students fund,’” said Goldrick-Rab. “I don’t know how we get out of a pandemic without all of them having a good shot at a college degree and without all of them contributing to our economy.”

Inside Higher Ed