Goshen College received a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human services, in partnership with LaCasa, to provide a unique financial aid offer to new students.

The project is called the Goshen College “Individual Development Education Accounts,” or IDEA. It works as a kind of savings account; low-to-moderate income students will open an account through First State Bank in Middlebury after LaCasa has verified their income.

When the student has saved up to $500, they will receive an 8-1 match, meaning that the student will get $4,000 for the $500 they saved. This money will go towards paying for tuition, books and other college-related expenses.

The GC involvement in IDEA is spearheaded by Joel Short, director of financial aid. His role will be to work closely with admissions to notify incoming students about the grant.

“We hope that this will help continue to make Goshen even more affordable for low-to-moderate income students, and that’s obviously one exciting piece of it,” says Short.

Another aspect of IDEA is financial literacy. Students will go through a financial literacy course as well, requiring financial education and loan counseling for all participants, as well as participation in the college’s Pathways to Career activities.

“The hope is students usually get as much out of [the financial literacy portion] as they do the money,” said Short. “The whole idea behind them saving the money is to try to help students and families think about and enable a behavior of saving money.”

One challenge that comes with this new grant is getting the word out to incoming students. There is also extra work that comes with determining who qualifies for the grant.

“Unfortunately this grant is not able to use the FAFSA data [to determine who is eligible for the grant],” said Short. “The FAFSA can help us determine who is eligible, but it’s not the determining criteria, so that’s also a bit of a challenge.”

GC and LaCasa are two of four Indiana institutions to receive this grant from the Office of Community Services, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and one of only 12 higher education projects in the nation.

This grant project is modeled after a program in Arizona called the Earn to Learn Program. It has shown success in giving greater opportunities to students from low-income households and resulted in higher college retention rates.

The project is working to empower more low-to-moderate income students to successfully complete college with a degree and less debt.

The grant provides enough bank accounts for up to 150 students. “The grant is extended over several years. We’d love to use 150 this next year but it’s not likely,” said Short.

This new grant program will be available to new students to GC, and it is open to students any qualifying student in the U.S. who can open a U.S. bank account.

Students interested in the program who plan on attending GC for the fall of 2017 can contact the financial aid office for more information.