Fund Helps Students Facing Emergencies
October 10, 2022
Life happens, and for some students, those life events during college can derail an academic career due to costs and trauma. Laptops can be stolen, family members can become ill, or health concerns can become overwhelming. Sometimes, a little help can go a long way toward keeping a student on their academic path.
UNC’s Emergency Support Fund has provided Bears with financial support just when they need it most.
“Everyone has had something come up unexpected in their lives that can derail them. In this case, it’s our students and it affects their ability to finish school successfully,” says UNC Dean of Student Development Colleen Sonnentag, Ph.D. “The Emergency Support Fund is there to help students facing unique circumstances.”
While the fund was established before COVID started, the impact of the pandemic sparked donor interest in supporting students who were struggling. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provided government funding to help some students who might have lost a job or weren’t able to make ends meet due to impacts of the pandemic.
CARES Act funding was not initially available for international students or undocumented students, and UNC was able to help meet those students’ needs with the Emergency Fund, as well as for any other students who needed help beyond CARES funding.
Though needs related to COVID have lessened, the Emergency Support Fund continues to help students through other difficulties – from students who need to replace books lost to theft to students experiencing dating/domestic violence trying to leave an abusive household who need help affording safe housing.
Over the last three years – starting with the 2019-2020 academic year – the fund has provided a total of 263 students with nearly $178,000 in aid.
One recent alumna says that the fund kept her from having to drop out of school. “I was two months away from graduation, and I was living with a family member off-campus who was high-risk for COVID. I needed to stay living in the area to continue classes, stay employed and to access mental health care, but I couldn’t continue risking my family member’s health. I couldn’t move in with other family, because they aren’t supportive or accepting of me and my identities. I was able to secure safe housing with the money I received from the Emergency Support Fund. I don’t think I would have gotten to graduation without this assistance. It emphasized for me how much the UNC community cares,” the student said.
Sonnentag says the situations that have come up have varied.
“We’ve had students who’ve lost both parents within an academic year, who needed assistance to afford plane tickets and were financially struggling to travel and assist with funeral expenses. We’ve had international students who’ve lost their homes or family members overseas, who needed assistance to afford plane tickets back. Another student experienced severe injuries during a storm and needed assistance with medical bills,” she says.
Whether it was helping replace personal belongings lost to theft or providing support for a student whose home was destroyed in Ukraine, the Emergency Support Fund has made a crucial difference for students trying to continue pursuing their degree through difficult times.
“Our students at UNC are incredibly resilient in times of crisis. They are thoughtful and resourceful. Every one of us has experienced times in life where things have not gone according to plan. Our students experience those same stressors while trying to juggle course work, employment and family responsibilities. Students who receive Emergency funding get a little breathing room during times when they need it the most.”
To give to the UNC Emergency Support Fund, visit https://www.give2unc.org/emergency to give securely online or call University Advancement at 970-351-2551.
– written by Debbie Moors