In the summer of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic drastically altered the lives of students across campus. It was clear they needed help. However, it wasn’t until the College of Science took action and launched its Student Emergency Fund in anticipation of the Fall 2020 semester that it became evident just how dire and widespread that need was. Students wrote to the College about how they were struggling to make tuition, pay fees, buy books, make their rent, even purchase food. Many of them had lost their jobs or saw severely reduced hours. Many also shared broader stories of family members losing their jobs, becoming ill with the virus, and uncertainty about the future.
Before the Fall 2020 semester even began, the College received 355 requests for assistance. Thanks to the generosity of alumni, faculty, and friends, the College was able to raise enough funds to offer $250 to every one of the 355 students who asked for help. Unfortunately, the financial stress felt by many students has only intensified as the pandemic’s ongoing impact reaches the one-year mark. The requests for help continue to come in:
“My family and I were hit by COVID hard at the end of November 2020. My dad has been in the hospital for a total of 7 weeks now and has not been able to work for months. I have also not been able to work for months. We expect the hospital bills to be through the roof. Any financial help I could get would help greatly for tuition, rent, and hospital bills. Thank you.”
“While I have enough to not starve, a little bit of food money would help so much. I could take a few hours off of work and focus on school this semester. It’s hard trying to only eat one meal a day to save money, yet have enough energy required for the lifestyle (school and work) that’s needed of me. A little bit could go a long way and would be deeply appreciated.”
“Receiving a College of Science Emergency Fund would help me keep my internet access. I am a full-time student with all online classes. My mother and I help each other pay for utilities and food in our household and just a few weeks ago she lost her job due to COVID-19 leaving our internet connection and my education at risk. Anything would help during this time. Thank you.”
“Due to COVID-19, my job stability has definitely lowered. A single positive COVID test causes my work to shut down with no pay for 2 weeks. Another positive test starts the 2 weeks over again. I make $8.50 an hour and losing work time makes it very difficult to pay for things such as textbooks and tuition […] I had to take out more loans this past year than previously because I have already had numerous occasions where I was on furlough due to positive results.”
“My mom lost her job because of the pandemic […] I had to take on the responsibility of the bills in order for my family (me, mom, little sister) to be able to still live at our home. My little sister is 17 and I do not want her to have to pay rent at her young age. I have to balance school with work which is very difficult at times, and I find myself short for rent some months. These funds would help my family and me immensely. I would be able to focus more on school while being able to take the stress off my shoulders. These emergency funds would be greatly appreciated.”
Just days before the spring semester started, 757 additional requests for assistance from the College of Science Student Emergency Fund were received. When surveyed, 30% of students shared that making tuition was their greatest need, followed by rent (29%), textbooks (21%), and food (8%).
“I have never seen this many students in desperate financial need for basics like food, rent and textbooks in my 20 years of working in higher education,” Steve Calhoun, Interim Director of Advising, Recruitment and Retention said. “With part-time jobs hard to come by and additional fees due to COVID, we need to support our students more than ever. After all, we are educating the next generation of scientists that will solve the next set of problems after current scientists defeat COVID-19. I am so grateful we have a wonderful donor base to help support our students’ during these times.”
As of March 4, the College has raised an astounding $209,000—enough to provide $250 of financial support to 836 students in need. However, there are still hundreds more who need help.
“It has been incredibly heartening to see such an outpouring of support for our students during this unprecedented time,” Katherine McCall, Acting Dean of the College of Science said. “The generosity of our College of Science community is helping alleviate the financial, emotional and physical stress that a large percentage of our student population is experiencing. While I wish I could say we have met the demand, the need remains critical."