A Lifeline for Students: Bridging the Gap When Times Get Tough

April 29, 2024
A woman with short brown hair and red shirt sits outside, smiling

Melody Robidoux

During a college student’s career, unforeseen contingencies can create crippling financial challenges. For a University of Arizona student on a tight budget or with minimal resources, one unplanned expenditure can translate into a long-term roadblock. 

For students in the School of Government and Public Policy, or SGPP, long-time donor and UArizona alumna Melody Robidoux has provided a pathway that aims to alleviate financial barriers. The Student Emergency Funding Scholarship, offered through the Melody S. Robidoux Director’s Fund, provides funding to cover expenses and fees that serve as obstacles to class registration or even graduation.

Melody understands this unique funding can make all the difference and help a student stay in school. 

“[The] emergency fund can help students, for example, pay off a bursar account to receive a diploma, cover a car repair, help pay rent, or help with unexpected family bills. These funds can keep graduate or undergraduate students enrolled at UA,” Melody said. 

Victoria Vasquez, a criminal justice major, received scholarship support in 2023. 

“This award helped me not worry about funds and just focus on school,” Victoria said. “I appreciate being able to get the emergency funding, which helped me pay off the remainder of my tuition and continue my education.” 

One student — a senior majoring in law — received funding to cover late fees, which they had been unable to pay, despite working three part-time jobs. 

Another student, a sophomore also studying law, received funding to cover past due balances for their tuition and fees, which they were unable to pay as their family experienced a death and used the student’s college savings to cover funeral expenses. 

The fund also pays for crucial, non-emergency services that contribute to academic and post-graduation success.

Students may apply to have fee-based tutoring services offered through UArizona’s Think Tank covered, or fee-based services through the Writing Skills Improvement Program, which helps students improve their writing and editing skills. 

“The Director’s Fund is an important and effective means of helping undergraduate students remain in school and graduate,” said Edella Schlager, SGPP director. “Melody Robidoux cares deeply about student success and her commitment to SGPP students is invaluable.” 

The College of Social and Behavioral Sciences has a similar scholarship — the Student Completion Fund — created to help students bridge the financial gap to graduation. Established in October 2022, it was designed to pay off or reduce small past-due balances, making it possible to enroll in classes for the next semester. As of December 2023, 47 students had been awarded a total of $36,608. 

Many donors understand that providing funding to cover emergencies or small fees that create larger barriers provides students more opportunities, continued success, and stress relief — allowing better focus on academic responsibilities. 

“I found supporting the Director’s Fund a compelling idea … this emergency fund reminded me of my own sometimes precarious financial situation while a UA undergraduate,” Melody said. “I worked almost full time and summers for most of those years. I was responsible for paying my way through college, so I can still relate to how an unexpected expense could cause a lot of stress. When I was a senior, I got some family assistance, but many students don’t have that backstop. A student emergency fund is a terrific idea for a grant-maker or alumni to support.”

You can donate online to the Student Completion Fund. 


This story was included in the spring 2024 Developments newsletter