Emergency Aid Fund helps students in need
ATLANTA – When making the transition to online-only courses, students may also face upheaval in other aspects of their lives as the response to the coronavirus pandemic evolves. From job loss or reduced working hours to food or housing insecurity, students who are already in dire straits could find themselves under even greater financial pressure in the weeks to come.
State of georgia Emergency aid fund was created to help relieve some of that tension.
Student Financial Services began administering aid grants in 2017, primarily through funding from corporate and foundation donors. The program was expanded in 2019 to reach more individual donors and create a broader base of support for Georgia state students in need. Donors can and have given large and small amounts. Hundreds have already done so via a crowdfunding site here.
The money is used to help eligible students with non-academic expenses such as emergency food and accommodation.
“What we’re finding is that the needs of our students often go beyond direct academic costs,” says Associate Vice President for Student Engagement and Dean of Students Michael L. Sanseviro.
Of Georgia’s 53,000-plus students, nearly 60% come from low-income households, making them especially vulnerable at times like this.
“We have students who work multiple part-time jobs, and the jobs they do are often in industries – like restaurants and retail – that are most affected by what’s going on in the Canadian economy. this moment, ”Sanseviro said.
Grants from the Emergency Relief Fund are made on a case-by-case basis and vary according to circumstances, needs and available resources. Since 2017, the university has awarded more than 400 grants, typically between $ 500 and $ 2,000. During the 2019-2020 academic year, around 100 scholarships were awarded, totaling over $ 60,000.
As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds, university officials expect an increase in requests for assistance under the program and fear that the fund may be insufficient to meet the needs of the large number of students from the state of Georgia.
“I would say the main thing I see in these apps over the past week is definitely unemployment,” Sanseviro said. “The majority of applicants are students who have been affected by the current situation and have been temporarily laid off or, in some cases, have lost their jobs permanently, and at the moment there are no jobs available. find.”
In addition to direct grant distributions, Sanseviro said university officials were working with partners to establish a voucher program that would help some students shop for groceries or stay temporarily in a motel. The need for these resources will be particularly acute when pantries are closed and shelters close or limit their operations.
“We hope to be that stopgap, to save them time,” says Sanseviro. “We know it will pass, and we know that at some point our students will be working again and re-enlisting, but in the meantime how do they continue to finish the semester if they have no income? “
Students requesting emergency assistance can apply through the Office of the Dean of Students here. These requests are examined by an inter-service team for follow-up. In some cases, students may be linked to other forms of financial aid or public assistance if these avenues have not yet been exhausted.
The purpose of the app, Sanseviro says, is to help administrators better understand a given student’s situation and the types of help available that he or she might not know.
It’s part of a larger, long-term strategy to help keep students on track to graduation.
“When we ask them about some of the resources they have,” Sanseviro says, “this is also one of the ways we can improve case management and determine what they are already connected to and what are not. they not connected. that they could be.
“At the end of the day, it’s about advocating for students. It’s about how to help build resilience in students so that we give them the hand they need now to help them get out of the gap, but then how we can help them not fall back into it.