By E.C. McRoy, Staff Reporter
The Rust Opportunity Assistance Fund is an emergency scholarship designed to help students with unexpected financial situations that could prevent the student from continuing their education or cause them to drop out of school, according to Clint Wells, executive director of the CNM Foundation.
The Rust Fund can be used to replace stolen equipment that was bought for classes, but can be used for other things as well.
“This stuff is still hard for me to see. A student became homeless after her house was flooded with sewage and needed help with her first month’s rent,” he said.
The expense is then unexpected and without them, students no longer have the ability to complete assignments.
The Rust Fund can’t help every student, says Wells, but it is the Foundation’s goal to ensure that finances aren’t what stops a student from reaching their educational goals.
A student or faculty member may receive the fund once per twelve month period, according to Luis Villa, scholarship technician at Financial Aid and Scholarship Services.
Students are required to submit an application along with a personal statement, supporting documents of the financial emergency, two letters of recommendation and information for the payee, he said.
Villa said that the funds are disbursed to the vendor or provider, not paid directly to the student.
The fund cannot be used to pay for tuition, insurance or car payments, or cell phone or cable bills, he said.
Wells said the Rust Fund doesn’t usually provide scholarships over $1,000 and the event triggering the fund must be an unforeseen financial burden.
The foundation has always tried to provide funds for students in need, but didn’t have specific funds designated for financial emergencies, he said.
“We have a lot of students that have had medical situations that put them in the place of thinking, ‘well, do I take on more hours at work and drop out of school or do I stay in school, can I stay in school with this debt?’” said Executive Director Wells.
The Rust Fund is one of the larger scholarships available in terms of the amount of money awarded every year and the number of students that can be assisted, he said
Over $1 million in funds have been allocated to nearly 3,000 students since the fund has was originally established by Donna and Jack Rust in 2003.
“It’s not a hard sell to think about one incident could clip you, could take you out of school is something all of us would like to prevent,” said Wells.
Students can donate as well via the foundation’s online website under the Rust Fund, he said.
The funds are kept in a savings or investment account, allowing the funds to build and renew until they are disbursed and there is also a cash account that donors add to each year, he said.