After receiving some federal aid, she still owed $600 for tuition and faced being dropped from classes if that was not paid quickly. She was also worried about paying for rent with her earnings working 20 hours a week at a retail greeting card store. Then Decker heard about a campus program that helps upperclassmen like her who are close to graduating but have financial troubles that could force them to drop out. She applied and was delighted to be awarded a $1,500 micro-grant.

Fresno State’s Bulldog Retention Grant is part of a national trend that is using emergency money as a tool to help retain and graduate upperclassmen students, even those who might not be eligible for other aid, experts say.

Now in the past few years, more schools are adding a focus on aiding students who are near graduation but might not make it without some extra money — often relatively modest amounts — beyond traditional financial aid.

Established last year, the Bulldog Retention Grant at Fresno State gives emergency money to students who have 30 or fewer credits left to earn their degrees, among other qualifications.

Last year the program gave out 92 awards, totaling $51,000 and ranging from $420 to $1,500. Campus officials say it was money well-spent since 15 of those awardees have graduated and the other 77 are all continuing at school; another 249 were awarded this past fall but retention statistics are not yet available about them.

Read the full article about college micro-grants by Larry Gordon at EdSource.