Student Assistance Fund for Eastern (SAFE) Crucial for Students During Pandemic
When Eastern Kentucky University established the Student Assistance Fund for Eastern (SAFE) last fall, a global pandemic on the scale of COVID-19 was only the stuff of horror novels.
As the Coronavirus began to impact the U.S. this past winter, devastating families, upending students’ lives and forcing EKU classes online for the rest of this semester, the fund suddenly took on even greater importance. And now, alumni and friends of the University are joining the urgent effort to help Eastern students keep their educational dreams alive.
Already, more than $18,000 has been contributed by 80-plus alumni, friends, faculty, staff and students, and the University’s Development office is prioritizing its efforts to help students who have been hindered by the epidemic.
In response to a charge from Dr. Gill Hunter, executive director of retention and graduation, the Student Assistance Fund was created to provide short-term emergency funding assistance to students unable to meet immediate, essential expenses due to an unexpected emergency or crisis.
“Students face unexpected financial challenges that impact their ability and decision to stay in school,” said Matt Schumacher, senior director of student success. “The fund was established to assist these students so they can focus on classes, stay enrolled, persist and ultimately graduate. EKU already had an emergency loan program, but we thought it was critical to be able to award grants to take that burden off students who are often already financially committed so they could continue to focus on their academics.”
University officials piloted the award process early in the spring semester. Then, as the pandemic worsened across Kentucky and the nation, Dr. Lara Vance, director of the Student Success Center, worked with the Development office to escalate the process. Development provided its full support, even postponing its Annual Day of Giving (originally scheduled for April 14). “We are instead using our energy to promote SAFE, which is the University’s priority at this time,” said Krista Rhodus, director of annual giving with University Development.
Published on April 01, 2020