Natalie's Everyday Heroes: Dr. Michael Rosen, director of MATC's FAST Fund

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Dr. Michael Rosen taught economics for 29 years at MATC. So that means he knows a lot about finances, and his students. He saw that money problems derail their studies far too often.

When he retired in 2017, he helped establish MATC’s FAST Fund—which he now directs. It’s fast money for college emergencies.

It started with a $5,000 donation, and then raised $21,000 more at his retirement party. He knew the fund would be a way for him to stay connected to his students.

“I didn't want to retire from the students that I had worked with 29 years,” Rosen explained.

He found a way to stay involved that is changing lives.

“He could be spending his time with his family, his grandchildren, and relaxing somewhere, but he's making sure that students like myself are able to succeed,” said MATC graduate, Bria Burris.

Rosen’s impact is clear, as he scrolls through students’ testimonials online, all singing the praises of the FAST Fund.

“FAST stands for faculty and students together,” Rosen said.

Elaine Aedo said it really is fast. She applied for help paying for homework software.

“He called me within hours. It's certainly no misnomer. It is a fast fund,” Aedo said.

It’s money for MATC students who have an economic emergency such as rent, gas money, utilities or food. A lot of times, those expense force students into making tough decisions.

“I was faced with the decision of do I pay my rent or do I pay for this expensive homework software,” Aedo said.

She filled out the FAST Fund application and Dr. Rosen made sure the software was paid for.

“I would have not paid my rent,” Aedo said of the decision she would have made.

Rosen said students shouldn’t be forced to choose.

“We make it very difficult for way too many students to succeed, and that's what we're trying to help with in our own modest, small way,” he said.

He’s helped in big ways, too. Rosen helped Burris get a drug charge expunged from her record.

“It meant a lot to be able to get that off my record and just move forward. With the felony gone, education underway, be able to secure housing, secure a job making a living wage,” she said of the help.

Rosen said the FAST Fund operates on trust and donations. Students do need a faculty recommendation and documentation of their financial issues, when possible. The money then goes directly to the vendors or landlords to pay the bills.

“These are our students,” Rosen said. “We know them. We know the hardship they experience.”

Burris graduated this summer and has a full-time job as a supervisor for a rental assistance program. Aedo will transfer to UWM after this semester to study biomedical engineering. She credits the FAST Fund for helping to make that possible. The fund has helped more than 800 students since it started.

“Last year, we helped 298 students, which was a 94.7% increase over the previous year,” Rosen said of the growing need.

Rosen is happy to stay connected to MATC students and help wherever he can. His priority is helping them overcome economic hurdles and succeed.

“I can tell you that this is something that gives me, personally, intense satisfaction because I know that I'm helping people who want to help themselves,” he said.

If you’d like to help the FAST Fund, just visit https://www.aplos.com/aws/give/Directormatcfastfundorg/thankyou.

If you’d like to nominate someone for Natalie’s Everyday Heroes, send Natalie at message at NShepherd@cbs58.com.

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