Emergency Relief Fund Helps Students Stay on Course Despite COVID-19 Disruptions

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted everyday life for everyone. For some, it’s minor. For others, it’s catastrophic. At the Kent State University at Geauga Campus, economic hardships caused by the pandemic have threatened to derail many students’ academic plans and their hopes for a better future.

Consider just a few examples:

  • One student (a single mother) had her hours cut at her healthcare job. As a result, she lost the benefit of employee tuition reimbursement. She cannot pick up extra work shifts because she needs to care for her children. Now she may lose her car since she is unable to keep up with monthly payments. 
  • Two students’ spouses lost their jobs, one as a nurse and the other as a childcare worker. Both families are struggling with basic household finances (car payments, mortgage/rent, and childcare).  
  • Another student was struggling financially, even before the pandemic hit. This student holds multiple jobs, trying to make ends meet. The pressures to make ends meet now outweigh the desire to get ahead through education.

Recognizing that dozens of students face similar situations, Kent State Geauga has established an Emergency Relief Fund to provide a stopgap for them to continue on with their studies.

Ten thousand dollars in grant funds have been made available to assist Kent State students who live in Lake and Geauga counties and face financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This represents half of a $20,000 award from the Lake-Geauga Fund of the Cleveland Foundation that is being split between this Emergency Relief Fund and Zoom Room technology advances for remote learning. 

The Emergency Relief Fund is designated for students experiencing financial hardship, food insecurity, unexpected medical or childcare expenses, housing instability, or transportation barriers that hinder their ability to succeed as students.

Over the summer term, $2,250 was disbursed among four students. The remaining $7,750 was allocated this fall semester, supporting 12 students in need. Individual awards range from $250-$800, helping offset living expenses (rent, food, utilities-internet, car payment, etc.) or educational expenses (technology, transportation, etc.).

Lance Williams, director of Special Projects & Operations for Kent State Geauga, says that this financial support can spell the difference between a student staying on track toward graduation or being forced to drop out due to financial stressors. Short-term aid helps students to persist in their program, increasing the likelihood that they will graduate on time.

Otherwise, “if a working student has to choose between paying for school or paying their bills," Williams said, "the latter may be the most rational, resulting in students leaving school. When students take a semester off, it is not always a seamless transition, if and when they return.”

Kent State Geauga is committed to ensuring student success, says Dean and Chief Administrative Officer Angela Spalsbury, Ph.D. “Sometimes academic success requires financial support, so students can continue pursuing a college education when unexpected disruptions occur," said Spalsbury. "The pandemic has placed a financial burden on many of our students, and they need additional resources to continue meeting their academic goals. The Lake-Geauga Fund of the Cleveland Foundation provided us with an opportunity to help in a meaningful and impactful way.” 

Williams appreciates that “this fund will allow our students to focus on family and schoolwork, and not have to worry about paying for rent or food, at least for a short time. The grant is a great way to support our students locally, but unfortunately, while part of this need has been met, it has not gone away. This will be an ongoing need as many students or spouses of students have been displaced in the labor market. It will be a while before most are back on their feet.”

Kent State Geauga will continue to raise donations for the Emergency Relief Fund and Last Dollar Scholarship, meeting student needs throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and well into the future.

POSTED: Tuesday, October 13, 2020 10:30 AM
Updated: Friday, December 9, 2022 12:58 PM
Estelle R. Brown