An anonymous University of Oregon alumnus pledged $5 million in early February to create a new, permanent student emergency fund, allowing the university to make attempts to financially support students during the COVID-19 pandemic. UO staff members are working with the donor to make some funds available as soon as possible.
“The $5 million gift will be used both to provide immediate grants to students once the fund is up and running, as well as to create an endowment that will provide for students’ needs in perpetuity,” UO spokesperson Saul Hubbard said.
All current UO students will be able to apply, but eligibility to receive funding will ultimately be decided by a collaborative team from the Office of the Provost, Dean of Students, Financial Aid and the Division of Undergraduate Education and Student Success. This team is currently working on creating specific criteria as well as an application process, Hubbard said.
“The anonymous donor was inspired by efforts of UO parents to offer financial resources for students through the existing UO Students in Crisis Fund, which was launched in 2018 and bolstered with additional funds in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
Since the university first launched the original Students in Crisis fund in 2018, $2.3 million worth of requests have been made, and UO has given out roughly $1 million. The Students in Crisis fund is meant to help students in temporary financial distress, but will not cover tuition, study abroad costs or application fees. The new emergency fund will act similarly, but it will cover academic costs in addition to basic needs.
Students have also been able to get financial help for COVID-19-related issues since the start of the pandemic. UO received over $8 million in March 2020 and another $8 million in December through the Federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, creating grants and emergency aid funds for students facing hardships due to the pandemic.
The Quarantine Fund, created in collaboration with UO’s Financial Aid and Dean of Students offices, allows students to be financially compensated for money lost due to required isolation. Any students who fill out an application detailing what they spent in isolation can receive up to $1,400 to cover hotel stays or food costs. Only students who went into isolation after Dec. 27 can qualify for this relief fund.
“As a college student, it can be really hard to have to pay for a hotel for two weeks, and it’s something you can’t really control,” said Jeremy Brown, a UO student who had tested positive at the beginning of winter term and stayed in a hotel to avoid getting his roommates sick. He applied to the quarantine fund in the middle of the term and received $247, enough to partially cover his hotel stay.
The new emergency fund will be slightly more flexible in what students can use the funds for, and can potentially be used as a permanent source of support for students in chronic need. Unlike the COVID-19 relief funds, only philanthropy will support the new emergency fund, Hubbard said.
“In addition to the $5 million gift, the university will continue to fundraise for the fund, inviting others to contribute and support our students,” he said.
This story was updated to reflect that the emergency fund will be a permanent student support fund.