Emergency Student Aid (ESA) | UNCF

Emergency Student Aid (ESA)

For low-income families—like those of the 92 percent of UNCF students who qualify for financial aid—the money needed to handle an emergency can mean the difference between staying in school and dropping out.

A parent gets laid off or receives a pay cut. An after-school job is eliminated. Someone has an accident or gets sick. Emergencies happen, and the money needed to handle them may be the money that was helping to finance a college education.

Once students leave, they’re apt never to return. We owe it to these students to be there for them when their college education is at risk. They’ve studied hard and kept their grades up. Their parents have contributed what they can. They deserve our help—because even though dealing with the unexpected is a fact of life, it doesn’t have to mean putting an end to a student’s dreams.

Emergency Student Aid (ESA) is a unique UNCF scholarship program that provides “just-in-time” financial aid to HBCU students when personal emergencies become financial crises. Since 2009, nearly 12,000 ESA scholarships totaling more than $25 million (the average award is nearly $2,000) have helped students stay in college and complete their degrees. Your contribution to ESA will help ensure this important safety net is there to catch students when they are most vulnerable.

“If it were not for ESA, I would not have graduated on time from Bethune-Cookman University or fulfilled my grandfather’s last wishes for my college journey.”—Erica Nichole Walker, ESA recipient



Our nation’s economic success is inextricably linked to more young people getting to and through college. But underclassmen with unpaid balances risk being denied registration for new courses. Seniors with unpaid balances risk being denied graduation. That’s why your gift to ESA is so important.

Your gift to this emergency scholarship fund—with the average student award being near $2,000—will help: 

  • Increase college enrollment rates by reducing financial barriers
  • Increase the pool of low-income and minority students who have the financial means to persist
  • Close the gap on unmet financial need for low-income students of color

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