“The funds I have received will help me continue life as normally as possible in the midst of this pandemic, and they have greatly alleviated my fears and anxieties. Words cannot express how grateful I am.” — Mason nursing student who received emergency assistance
In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, the Mason community has rallied over the last two weeks with the Patriots Helping Patriots initiative, supporting students in unprecedented ways and at levels never before seen.
Using a combination of donations received since the crisis emerged and existing university funds, University Life has distributed more than $709,000 to 638 students (figures through April 9) since the application form for the Student Emergency Assistance Fund went online on March 19.
With Thursday, April 2 originally set as the university’s fourth annual Giving Day, the Office of Advancement and Alumni Relations collaborated with University Life to turn the day into a milestone for a much bigger effort focused fully on providing urgent assistance to Mason students in need.
Spurred by email, social media, and virtual word of mouth, at least 1,673 individual donors have given more than $242,000 over the past few weeks to student emergency assistance funds set up by University Life as well as Mason’s many schools and units (figures cover the period March 11 through April 9). About half of those donors are faculty or staff, 31 percent are alumni, and 9 percent are parents of students.
But those gifts are only part of a much bigger effort that continues to unfold, with Patriots Helping Patriots planned to continue as long as the need exists.
Many university units and programs have scoured their budgets to find funds that can be redirected now to student assistance, including the Office of Advancement, which transferred $100,000 from its current operations budget to the cause.
Ten thousand dollars from the Anne K. Altman and Xavier W. Alire Scholarship Fund was used to launch the School of Business student emergency assistance fund, at the donor’s request. The Women in Business Initiative, a School of Business advisory board, contributed another $10,000. Michael Gallagher, MBA ’94, founder of the Stevie Awards, added $5,000. And at the request of EagleBank, $50,000 in funding previously approved from the company will now be designated for emergency assistance to business students.
These funds supplement state dollars already in the budget, such as the Stay Mason Student Support Fund, which for several years has been a source for short-term financial assistance for students at risk of dropping out.
Through April 7, more than 1,300 students had requested assistance through the online application, identifying a total need of $2.67 million, for an average request of $1,900. With so many students having suddenly lost part-time or full-time jobs, the most common needs identified continue to be for essentials such as paying rent, utility bills, childcare, food, and computer technology. Without financial assistance, many could be at risk of not being able to complete the semester.
Underscoring the emergency nature of the requests, University Life staff are continuously reviewing online applications, approving awards in three business days or less. The figures keep rising, with University Life currently moving about $70,000 to students each day—an extraordinary pace.
“The chaos that COVID-19 has given birth to is almost unbelievable,” writes one student recipient. “I feel the impact not only in unemployment, but in the transition to online schooling. As a nursing student, I am losing clinical hours, which are a huge part of my course and course fees. I feel the impact with my daily living expenses—whether or not I have a home, can receive the health care I need, or can pay the electricity bill, just to name a few. … The funds I have received will help me continue life as normally as possible in the midst of this pandemic, and they have greatly alleviated my fears and anxieties. Words cannot express how grateful I am.”
Rob Riordan / April 10, 2020