Illinois is providing financial assistance to those students who are most at risk of dropping out of college because of the pandemic. The Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE), Illinois Community College Board, and Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) have created a COVID-19 emergency fund to help the more than 131,000 low-income students they serve.
The money raised by the Public University and Community College Student COVID-19 Emergency Fund will be allocated to public universities and community colleges based on their percentage and number of low-income students. To date the fund has raised $550,000.
“While colleges and universities are doing all they can to help students during this pandemic, vulnerable students still face the unstable housing, food insecurity, or lack computer equipment and internet access,” explained IBHE Executive Director Ginger Ostro. “This fund will help meet those needs.”
Examples of students who are at risk of dropping out due to the impact of COVID-19 include:
- A student in quarantine at home awaiting a COVID-19 test, who is not eligible for paid time off from their job.
- A single parent in college who has lost their job and is no longer able to afford diapers or formula.
- A student studying from home whose only computer is too old to support the software needed for classes.
“We know that low-income students have great financial need in the best of times. These are not the best of times. Students who stop out of class are less likely to complete their education,” said Eric Zarnikow, ISAC executive director. “The challenges faced by these students right now, coupled with the economic downturn as a result of the pandemic, means students who drop out now may never come back to finish their studies. This fund can help students across the state bridge that gap.”
The COVID-19 emergency fund will be administered by the Southern Illinois University Foundation. The institutions each have an established foundation capable of quickly receiving and distributing funds. All part-time and full-time students in good standing are eligible. The money will be distributed as grants, which do not have to be paid back. Students should contact their school directly to find out how to access the emergency funds.
Rallying Private Funders
“We are reaching out to the civic and philanthropic community that cares about equity in higher education,” said IBHE Chair John Atkinson. “We know COVID-19 is already severely impacting minority communities disproportionately from a health perspective, but it also puts at risk thousands of students’ ability to continue their post-secondary education.”