When Ashley Savage was unable to continue working her regular schedule due to COVID-19, she was no longer confident she could meet all of her expenses.
“I wasn’t struggling with food, clothes or other things, but I was fearful about paying my rent due to the situation COVID-19 put so many workers in,” Savage said.
Savage was awarded $450 through the University of Central Arkansas’ Student Emergency Fund. She used the money to pay her rent.
“If not for these funds, I would have felt very uneasy about the months to come in regards to my rent. I had just been sent home from work for several months due to COVID-19, and the award was really helpful,” Savage said.
UCA’s Student Support and Resource Center oversees the Student Emergency Fund, as well as the Technology Assistance Grant, Incoming Freshman Laptop Initiative and other student-focused efforts.
The application period began in April and ended in August. Approximately 1,900 students applied for funding through the Student Emergency Fund, said Cassandra Ward, a program specialist in the Student Support and Resource Center.
Students were awarded grants ranging from $95 to $1,000 for expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to COVID-19 such as food, housing, course materials, technology, health care and child care. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and private donors, through the UCA Foundation, funded the program.
To receive funding, students applied online, including a synopsis of why they needed the funds, the amount requested and a description of the difficulties they were facing as a result of the pandemic. All eligible applications were sent to a committee consisting of staff members who assessed the applications and made recommendations on which to fund.
The Student Emergency Fund awarded more than $380,000 of CARES Act and private funding to students.
“They received an email letting them know that they were awarded,” said Sara McKee ’17, a student support specialist in the Student Support and Resource Center. “Multiple students responded with gratitude and excitement during such a difficult time.”
Christopher Talley used the $733 in funding he received to pay for rent, food, books and utilities. He said he had secured a summer job, but the pandemic eliminated the opportunity.
“I had to pay some bills essentially on credit, as I didn’t have enough to cover them,” Talley said. “Without this fund, I was fearing having to work a job unrelated to my education, and I was fearful that my grades and learning would suffer.”
Talley is a graduate student in the digital filmmaking program.
“With these funds, I returned to solely focusing on being a better filmmaker, not on how to pay the bills,” Talley said.
Darius Brown received $900 in funding. The nursing student lives in Mayflower with his mother. Using the emergency funds, he paid his family’s rent and for his mother’s medication. He was grateful for the award.
“I did not know universities had an emergency fund, so it came as a shock to me when I could apply for it,” Brown said. “I think it is a wonderful way to lift the weight off a student’s shoulders when someone does not have a regular source of income.
“You’ve not only helped change my financial situation but also my mindset. I hope to be able to do what you all have done someday for someone else,” Brown said.