Student Support Services Director Stacy Narcotta-Welp discusses UWL’s new grant program to support foster students

Entrance to UWL’s office of Student Support Services. Image retrieved from

Andrew Bates, Managing Editor

This past fall, the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse received a UW System grant for students that have experienced challenges such as foster care, orphanhood, homelessness, or guardianship. The program is called Fostering Success for Independent Scholars. It began at UW-Stout in 2013 and this year, UWL, as well as numerous other UW schools including UW-Whitewater, UW-Milwaukee, UW-Eau Claire, and UW-River Falls, have implemented the program.

The grant program is offering resources and support including a $750 scholarship, emergency funds, access to supplies and personal items, help in applying for assistance programs, and more for eligible students.

Across the UW System, $750,000 was awarded towards the grant program for the 2021-23 state budget, and UWL was allotted the maximum amount possible. The UW System provided UWL with $70,000 in funding, which includes $20,000 for start-up costs this year, and $50,000 annually assuming all criteria are met, according to Campus Connection.

According to Wisconsin Public Radio, UW-Stout’s program has grown from 15 to 45 students since it began in 2013, and these students have also seen a marked growth in average cumulative GPA, which has raised from 2.5 to 3.23.

Stacy Narcotta-Welp, director of Student Support Services (SSS), said this was a “benchmark” year for the program, and UWL currently has 20 students enrolled. Director Narcotta-Welp said, “We have roughly anywhere from 30 to 50 students that fit this population depending on the year,” so there are several students across campus that are eligible yet have not applied for support.

“The caveat to this is not all of our students fill out their [Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)], so the way we’re able to identify who might fit into this population is through some of the questions that are on FAFSA,” said Director Narcotta-Welp.

Director Narcotta-Welp discussed how the program has been going through its first semester, and she said the big piece was connecting students with the resources they need, and she’s seen students come in for supplies they wouldn’t have been able to afford without the program such as school supplies, cleaning supplies, food, winter clothing, and more.

Director Narcotta-Welp said her goal is to help students of this demographic realize that they can be successful and that funding and support doesn’t have to be a stumbling block for them. “We have hopes as we continue to move through the school year to have some independent scholars-only events that are focusing on some of the financial challenges, helping [the students] in connecting to various resources,” said Director Narcotta-Welp, “We have peer mentors now that we’ve been able to hire to help start building a community for those particular students.”

“The next phase of [the program] for [SSS] is to get out into the local community as students are applying to college now,” said Director Narcotta-Welp, “We’ve created some marketing materials now and some info materials to get out into the community to those point people to let them know, ‘Hey, UWL is a great place for students who find [themselves] in this population.’ It’s a great place to go because we have these supports that we didn’t have before.”

Director Narcotta-Welp said if students think they may qualify or if faculty members are aware of students that may qualify, she encourages them to contact her or stop by the SSS office for more information.

The new program operates out of UWL’s SSS office, which is located at 2131 Centennial Hall. For more information on eligibility and the application process, students may refer here, or contact SSS Director Stacy Narcotta-Welp at: @[email protected].