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Purdue donors support COVID-19 critical need fund for students

Purdue students whose education, incomes, and on-campus lives were unexpectedly and significantly disrupted by the global COVID-19 pandemic received more than $95,000 in critical need funds thanks to an outpouring of donations from Purdue faculty, staff, alumni, and friends—including unspent balances from both the undergraduate and graduate school governments’ operating budgets. 

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The call for donations to the Disaster and Emergency Student Assistance fund administered by the Office of the Dean of Students was announced on March 19, specifically to help students who lost income from sudden unemployment and were experiencing food and shelter insecurity—including international students who could not return home.

University administrators estimate that between 1,200 and 2,000 students had to remain in on-campus housing for the duration of the semester. 

From March to May 5, the Office of the Dean of Students awarded $95,050 in critical need money to 184 students, with 58 more requests being evaluated at the time of this writing. Of the students who received critical need funds, 152 undergraduates were awarded $76,500 and 32 graduate/professional students were awarded $16,000.

Thirty awards, worth $2,550, helped students set up Wi-Fi “hot spots” to access the Internet at home to enable online remote instruction after the University cancelled on-campus classes effective March 23 for the remainder of semester.

Dean of Students Katherine Sermersheim said approximately $13,000 of the gifts that came in were from private donations to the disaster and emergency student assistance fund after the May 19 call for support. Since that time, as the fiscal year drew to a close, contributions have grown to more $47,800 from 146 gifts. 

In addition, $25,000 came from the Purdue Student Government and $15,000 from the Purdue Graduate Student Government from their respective unspent operating budgets. The move to reallocate those funds came after the organizations’ programming and events were cancelled for the semester. 

An additional $25,000 grant for the critical need student relief fund came from the University Initiative Alliance (UIA), a consortium of universities of which Purdue is a member, Dean Sermersheim said.

Students who applied for critical needs funding through the Office of the Dean of Students had to verify loss of income from an employer or otherwise substantiate the need for funding to support remote learning. If they qualified for emergency assistance, students were awarded a one-time gift of up to $500.

“The response was so helpful when students needed it most,” the dean said. “It is a testament to the generosity, resilience, and commitment of the entire Purdue community that private donors and student government united to support our students in need, to help make them whole again.” 

Responses from students who received critical needs gifts—and relief—were profuse in their praise and gratitude:

I appreciate the generosity of this school and its faculty. Purdue has been my home and my place of learning for almost two years and I am truly moved by the opportunities and help that this school has given me. Thank you so much!

Thank you very much for approving the critical need funding for me. I am extremely grateful and appreciate all the tremendous help. Please extend my gratitude to Purdue University faculty, staff, alumni and friends, and Purdue Student Government and Purdue Graduate Student Government for this generosity.

Thank you so much for your generosity and thank you to Purdue Student Government. This is absolutely amazing and so helpful so I don’t have to worry about rent on top of all of my finals. 

Oh my gosh, I cannot tell you how incredibly thankful I am for this generous gift! This is the absolute biggest relief and will help my financial struggles tremendously. Thank you so so much and I wish you all nothing but blessings and safety through this unprecedented time. 

Thank you so much! I really appreciate what Purdue University faculty, staff, alumni and friends, and student government are doing. This is going to help very much during this hard time.

After May 5, the Purdue University Division of Financial Aid office took over student support for COVID-19 critical needs thanks to funds made available through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by Congress and signed into law on March 27.

Though all the COVID-19-related critical funds raised from March to May 5 have been exhausted, the Office of the Dean of Students continues to offer emergency assistance to help ensure Purdue students have access to the support and resources they need to successfully recover from unexpected financial crises and to stay on track academically. 

Gifts to the Disaster and Emergency Student Assistance fund will make an immediate difference for those dealing with unexpected financial needs. To support Purdue students who may be encountering difficulties, visit here and select Disaster and Emergency Student Assistance.

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