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Colleges Raise Emergency Funds To Help Struggling Students



The COVID-19 pandemic is having broad financial consequences, and college students are not immune to the effects.


Losing a part-time job. Not being able to eat at the cafeteria. A premature return from studying abroad. These unforeseen expenses are a stress on students' budgets. So universities across the UNC System are quietly raising thousands of dollars to help their students make ends meet.


In many cases, longtime donors are filling the needs.


“We’re very sensitive to the fact that our donors are under stress, and so we have not made an ask that looks very much like an ask,” said David Routh, vice chancellor for development at UNC-Chapel Hill. “What we’ve done is told our donors, ‘Many of you have asked how you can help, and if you’re interested at all in what our students need, here’s a link.’”


UNC-Chapel Hill donors came through with more than $250,000 – and growing – for the Carolina Student Impact Fund.


Associate Provost Rachelle Feldman usually oversees scholarships at UNC Chapel Hill, but this week, her focus is on managing the new fund.


“My entire office of scholarships and student aid is trying quickly to triage the requests and get students their funding as soon as possible,” Feldman said.


Initially, the fund served students who needed to abruptly return from study abroad semesters in the earliest COVID-19 affected countries, and now, the requests hit close to home.


“For some students it's finding housing that's not on campus, for some students it's better internet connectivity, and some students, they're suffering because they lost an off-campus job and they were using that to pay their bills,” Feldman said.


Universities across the UNC System have created similar funds that students can access if they need help with emergency expenses. UNC-Chapel Hill and NC State have each raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for their student emergency funds.


Learn more about student emergency funds available at all UNC System schools.


Liz Schlemmer is WUNC's Education Reporter, covering preschool through higher education. Email:
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