Emergency fund helps students


Kayla Friedrich

Karen Madden

You’ve been attending classes at Johnson State College for a semester. Suddenly you’re struck by an unforeseen and costly accident. For example, you’ve lost your glasses that you depend on to read, and your bank account is frighteningly empty. What can you do?

You can file an application for a grant from the Student Emergency Fund.

Karen Madden, director of Academic Support Services at JSC, knows about the broad need for this type of fund at the college. “It became obvious to the folks who work directly with students on this campus that there were a lot of students who were struggling with emergencies,” said Madden, “and that could be anything from books to gas to come to school [to] broken glasses.”

The Student Emergency Fund was first established in the 2011-2012 academic year after Madden learned about a similar fund maintained by Champlain College. “I happened to go to a workshop,” said Madden, “where there was a woman from Champlain College talking about how they had started this—an emergency fund—and it was supported by staff and faculty donations. So then I asked President [Emerita] Murphy and she gave permission.

“We started trying to raise money the first semester or two and then we had probably just $3,000-$4,000 the first year and the first two years the award was just $100, a maximum of $100 a year,” said Madden.
The maximum award from the fund has since increased to $150, and a student once per academic year can access the fund.

The amount of money in the fund is limited because it is entirely financed by donations, especially from faculty, staff and alumni. “It has to be an emergency. And it’s a first-come first-serve basis. $150 will hardly even buy one book. I wish we had a lot more money. It’s not that people aren’t generous. It’s just [that] the need is much greater than—the demand is higher than the supply.”

At the beginning of the 2015-2016 academic year, the fund contained a total of around $7,000, of which $2,000 has already been awarded.

Students have utilized the fund in increasing numbers every year that it has been available. Fourteen awards were granted in the first year of the fund, while last year it was accessed 45 times.

Given the size of the fund and the level of need present in the student body, it’s important that applications for the fund aren’t frivolous, and are sought with genuine need. “Sometimes students will fill out an application and we always check with student financial services,” said Madden. “If they have a refund coming we have to say no because you have other resources that could cover that cost. Again, it’s a way that we’re trying to spread the resources as far as we can with what we have.”

The Emergency Fund Committee is always looking for additional sources of money for the fund. If you have any ideas, send them to [email protected]

To apply for a grant from the Student Emergency Fund, you can find the form in the Aid & Billing section of the JSC portal.