One week novel coronavirus was halfway around the world. The next week, it was at our doorstep and given a laboratory name: COVID-19.
To reduce the spread of the virus, almost immediately, colleges and universities across the nation were closing classrooms and moving to online learning. The University of Louisiana Monroe was one of the first to transition to remote classes.
But the virus seems to know no bounds. Students were encouraged to leave residence halls and return to their homes. It was a disruption for all, but some students faced challenges beyond tossing clothes in boxes. Working students or family members lost jobs; many depended on campus technology for online access; others had bills to pay or needed food. What began as a health crisis; for many students, it became a financial crisis as well.
The ULM Foundation, under the leadership of its Executive Director Susan Chappell, with Dr. Michael Camille, Vice President for Information Services and Student Success, led a committee that quickly established the Financial Emergency Fund for students. A webpage was added to ulm.edu, where students could confidentially apply for assistance. Donations can be made on the same page.
The call went out, and Warhawk alumni and the community responded. As of April 6, donations to the fund totaled almost $23,000 and 350 students had applied to the fund.
“While we are all impacted by these unprecedented times, the response from donors in one week providing critical funds for students in dire need, is an example of how the American people pull together, nurture hope, and make a difference in the lives of others. The Financial Emergency Fund will continue to accept donations and disburse to students over the coming months as the need will continue. May God bless you all,” stated Chappell.
Sami Owens, Executive Director of Recruitment and Admissions, serves on the emergency fund committee. She and other members assessed the student applications and provided assistance checks as soon as possible. Currently, the committee has awarded more than $15,000. The deadline to apply for the fund was April 6, but if donations continue and students continue to apply, that could date be extended.
Owens said there’s not one greatest need – most students have multiple needs.
“We’ve seen a lot of independent students who don’t rely on parents for any financial help and have now lost their jobs. We’ve seen some whose parents and families have been laid off and can’t support them anymore, and we’ve also seen a lot of independent students with dependents of their own who are now out of a job and can’t feed their family. It’s all so heartbreaking,” said Owens.
In a letter thanking donors, Chappell provided general information about the student requests:
· Loss of jobs with no other opportunities for work.
· Many are ineligible for unemployment and/or SNAP benefits. If approved, the amount is too low cover needs.
· Campus residents moved in with friends or returned home, but are without computers and/or internet access.
· Parents that support students are laid off or furloughed.
· Most requests are to pay rent, car insurance, car notes, internet services, phone bills, groceries, necessities, etc.
· International students with no way to go home and their fami lies who send money are also unable to work. Some have also lost their off-campus jobs.
· A few students are dealing with COVID-19 in their own families.
The COVID-19 crisis persists, and as a result, the needs of ULM students persist. Donations will continue to be accepted and funds distributed to students in need.