TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - It’s hard to go back to school when you’re a little older than other students. In fact, Education Corner says about 70% of non-traditional college students, including the older ones, end up dropping out. ASU grad students, however, have the chance to get some financial relief to help them through the pandemic while many of them have kids at home.

The Caregiver Assistance Fellowship is for on-campus ASU graduate students – particularly ones who had to give up research and teaching assistant positions in order to take care of kids or older parents during the pandemic. “They had to take on expenses that they might not have otherwise known about,” said Graduate College Dean Elizabeth Wentz.

Wentz and her team had been looking for a way to use philanthropic money to support grad students who are parents or caregivers of older parents, and who may have had to change their plan of study. “We knew that they were kind of falling away from their studies and we knew that students were struggling,” she said.

More than 200 students have already applied for the new funding, which will provide up to $2,500 per semester to those selected. Kylee Warke, a law student and mother of two, is in the middle of her application. “It’s a phenomenal opportunity, honestly,” she said. “I’m really excited that ASU has almost upped the ante and realizing this desperate need of graduate students.”

As someone who’s taken out student loans just to live on, Warke says the fellowship could help her pay for necessities like food and childcare.

ASU previously had partnerships with places around the valley that offered lower-cost childcare for grad students. When the pandemic hit, many if not most of those places shut down, or dropped to limited capacity. “They were forced to find other places who could take them in, but on a higher cost,” Graduate Student Government President John Oyas said.

“You’re having to homeschool at the same time that you’re working at the same time that you’re trying to manage everything, and if you do have to go to campus, many of us couldn’t even find childcare,” said Christine Lewis.

Lewis earned her master’s degree 10 years ago but stepped away from school to help with her daughter’s medical condition. Now she has 4 kids and is a PhD candidate in molecular sciences. “For me, it will give me the opportunity to actually put my kids in after school care and still be able to maintain a full workday,” she said.

As a former Childcare Advocacy Board member, Lewis knows the new Caregiver Assistance Fellowship is much bigger than previous grants. “I think we’re making baby steps, but this is a larger step than a baby step,” she said.

Applications for the fellowship must be received by January 31.


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