Last year fifty students at Atlanta’s Spelman College were forced to drop out because of financial hardship, and with the nation’s economy reeling, prospects for 2009 are looking considerably more grim.

And so, an effort to keep the student body together, the student government of the nation’s first historically black college for women has created an emergency scholarship fund.

The new fund builds on projects the student government undertook last semester, when it created a free textbook program for students in need and persuaded Aramark, the college’s dining services provider, to provide meal plan subsidies to selected undergraduates.

The student government has provided $10,000 in seed money for the new emergency scholarships, and is connecting current students with potential donors in a letter-writing campaign to raise more.