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Student Crisis Fund Surpasses $1M in Distributions

Grants Support Recipients Struggling With Pandemic-spurred Job Losses

By Maryland Today Staff

Sun shines through a black gate with M's at the top

Photo by Stephanie S. Cordle

UMD’s Student Crisis Fund on Friday surpassed $1 million in grants given to 1,985 students since March 11, when the the novel coronavirus pandemic began. 

The University of Maryland’s Student Crisis Fund has passed a milestone that’s both a testament to the fund’s donors and a sober reminder of the economic devastation of COVID-19. 

The fund on Friday exceeded $1 million in grants given to 1,985 students struggling with daily necessities, rent payments, utilities and other bills that have been hard for many to cover since March 11, when the novel coronavirus pandemic began. 

The Division of Student Affairs typically receives 5 to 10 applications daily for help from the fund, down from a high of 231 on March 20. About 550 students have applications pending—more than the current fund balance can cover.

An increasing number of students seeking help have run out of places to turn, said Sarah Williamson, a coordinator in the Office of the Vice President of Student Affairs who helps distribute the funds.

“A lot more people applying now are talking about how not only have they lost jobs, their parents have also lost their jobs or had their hours cut,” she said.

Eder,  a junior studying international relations whose last name is being withheld to protect his privacy, contracted COVID-19 and developed pneumonia in April, a few weeks after losing the job that paid his rent. An immigrant from Brazil, he has since received two $500 grants from the fund.

“I don’t have family anyone here who is helping me financially, except the university,” he said. “To get this (grant) when I was sick and trying to get by—wow, it changed my life deeply. I’m grateful, and I’m proud of everything my school is doing to help people.”

Another trend is the rising number of struggling graduate students, who have less access to assistantships with many campus activities taking place virtually.

“What makes this really tough is that many of them have families they’re providing for, so the fund isn’t just helping the student—it’s helping a spouse and children, too,” said Ed Kenny, director of development and external relations for student affairs, a trend that has resulted in some grants to families rising from the typical $500 amount to $1,000.

“The fact that there have been 2,000 students in such dire financial need is a scary thought,” Kenny said. “But that we’ve been able to support them with the help of donors also says a lot.”

Schools & Departments:

Division of Student Affairs

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