By: Caitlyn Freeman, Contributing Writer
File photo by Brendan Felch
Eligibility changes to Towson University’s Student Emergency Grant Fund will now allow students financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic to apply for relief funding, according to an email announcement from the TU Tigers CARE team of the Division of Student Affairs.
Students are now eligible to apply for financial assistance for food, toiletries, medications, travel expenses for students traveling home, expenses for online learning, and other financial needs students may have due to loss of employment, according to the Student Emergency Grant Fund webpage. Students are only permitted to apply for the grant once per academic year. The fund will not provide assistance with paying for parking tickets, debt, furniture, and cable.
“It’s actually a good thing,” said TU junior Laila Thomas. “I do know somebody who was on campus who didn’t have [a] way home because of financial issues and I was shocked that they provided a lot of transportation for students who had to go to the airport. To hear that they’re now providing financial support, that’s really good because there’s students around the Towson area that have left the area due to financial issues.”
TU President Kim Schatzel also announced the University’s creation of the Faculty and Staff Emergency Fund, which focuses on providing financial support to university faculty impacted by the outbreak.
“The sudden loss of income from a spouse or other unexpected financial needs can put incredible hardship on our employees, and TU wants to live up to its goal of helping our faculty and staff succeed,” the webpage for the faculty fund reads.
Typically applicants for the Student Emergency Grant Fund must be currently enrolled as a full-time student at Towson University. However, during the pandemic, any enrolled student can apply.
According to an April 5 TU press release, the University has allocated approximately $200,000, with $50,000 specifically for food insecurity.
Executive Vice President of the Towson University Foundation Brian DeFilippis stated that the money allocated to the grant has not been donated and was previously listed as unrestricted funds that are now being directed to the grant due to the virus outbreak. However, The Big Give, a one-day event being held on April 22, will also help to secure donations for the student fund.
The press release also stated that the TU foundation approved the release of over $100,000 to be used in assisting students during this period of distance learning.
Chair of Tigers CARE, which focuses on assisting students in need, Anthony Skevakis, estimates that the grant will be eligible for COVID-19 related reasons until May or June.
“It’s not intended to be a loan fund that helps someone pay for things like tuition or fees or parking, it’s truly reserved for those ‘emergencies, emergencies,’” Skevakis said.
The application for the fund includes questions that inquire about a student’s academic status, asking if they have at least a 2.0 grade point average, and financial standing with the University. According to Skevakis, the questions are included in order to ensure the individual applying for the grant is indeed a TU student and can receive the grant properly.
“If a refund is applied to their account, and that post and you have a balance, it’s possible that all that posting is going to do is lower the balance,” Skevakis said.
He also explained that TU wants to ensure that receiving the grant won’t impact a student’s financial aid eligibility.
“There’s a certain threshold, some would say a ‘ceiling of money’ that we’re allowed to give up to,” Skevakis said. “And so when you have financial aid calculations being done, if you provide someone with above that aid, there’s going to be a bigger challenge in the future of applying for aids.”
As DeFilippis explained, the foundation manages all 750 university grant funds and oversees the distribution of donations to said funds. However, the foundation has no involvement in the disbursement of the grant money to students.
“[The Division of Student Affairs] have a better sense of what the student population needs,” DeFilippis said.
Once students apply to the grant, their application is evaluated by a case manager from the Division of Student Affairs and if they are approved, the money is then placed into their accounts. According to the grant’s webpage, a student will not be approved for an amount exceeding $1,000.