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Eagle Engage Corps: Debt Forgiveness Program at EMU

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Project ended on December 31, at 11:59 PM EST
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Eagle Engage Corps - Debt Forgiveness Meets Community Service

Help us help students complete their degrees and serve our community. For many students at EMU, the most significant barrier to returning to college is financial. 

Over the past ten years, nearly 23,000 students have stopped attending EMU and still do not have a degree. Many have maxed out federal loans and Pell grants and thus are unable to utilize financial aid to finish their degrees.

What is the Eagle Engage Corps (EEC)? 

Eagle Engage Corps combines debt forgiveness and public service in order to re-engage students who have stopped attending college before they obtained a degree. The goal of the program is to re-enroll former students of EMU and remove financial barriers so that they can graduate. 

The original cohort began with the Winter 19 semester. Currently, there are 13 students in the cohort, with 17 graduates as of September 2021. Overall, 33 students have participated. EMU has committed to forgiving up to $90,000 in debt owed by the students over the next year but the program does not have funding to support the basic needs many students struggle with meeting upon re-enrolling as a full-time student.

How does it work? 

Students who enroll in the cohort attend classes at EMU and engage in community work with local nonprofit organizations. Successfully completing program requirements results in prior University debt of up to $6,000 forgiven. Students who are able to graduate within three semesters are targeted to join the program.

One last hoop! 

Two years into the program we recognize the financial barriers once again prohibiting students from finishing their EMU journey. 

Many of our Corps members are unable to work full time while finishing school, and many of them no longer have access to federal student loans or pell grants. As part of the Corps, members participate in financial planning and mapping. They engage in the community through volunteer service, work full time, support families and attend classes.

Listen to Corey Woods’ experience as an EEC student by watching this brief interview from Fox 2 News. 

Read more about the program in this article from EMU Today!

Taylor’s story: My last year at Eastern...I was working 8-10 hour shifts to maintain my monthly responsibilities. I was experiencing severe depression and anxiety all while trying to cross the finish line to my degree. Unfortunately, my grades began to slip due to long work shifts as a server. By October I was facing eviction from my apartment. I even picked up a second job in hopes of covering mounting costs. Despite my best efforts, I was drowning and my depression had skyrocketed.  Every day I was struggling to get up, let alone work or study.

Terri’s story: I had a hard time focusing while I attended EMU. From working full-time and going to school full-time, to dealing with several personal tragedies. While attending EMU I was not in a mature enough place in my life to be able to complete my program in the desired time frame. I eventually burned out financially with only one class left before graduating.

Where we’d like to go, with your support: Individual Development Accounts 

There is currently no consistent institutional financial resource for students who have utilized all of their federal financial aid (including Pell grants and student loans) to complete their degrees at EMU. Students in the EEC cohort have applied for additional scholarships and taken out personal loans to finance the remainder of their education. The students participating in this program have, on average, three semesters left of school, approximately 25-45 credits left. Individual Development Accounts offer a unique approach to engaging the business community in supporting college completion.

This funding raised from this campaign will be used as match funds for students participating in the program. A student would be eligible for up to $1500.00 in match funds during their time in the program. 

The IDA accounts will work as follows:  

  • Each student will establish a savings account at the U of M/EMU Credit Union. 
  • Each student will identify a savings goal for the semester. 
  • Once a student reaches their savings goal, the EEC will match that amount (up to $1500).
  • Matched savings can be used during the semester or towards a future semester for educational-related expenses including: books and class-related materials, transportation, childcare, classes, or other needs such as rent and food. 
  • If a student does not use the matched savings while in the program, their original savings will be returned to them.
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