Emergency funds for struggling students

Everyone has an emergency come up now and then. You get back from class, ready for the best nap you’ve ever taken, but as you flop down into bed, you hear a terrifying crunch. You get up to find your glasses in pieces on your bed. How will you see the board in class?

In the event of an emergency, students can request funds from the Student Support Fund, which is meant to aid students in need of funding to continue their education at Northern Vermont University.
The funds are collected through donations from staff and faculty from either one-time donations or through payroll deductions. According to Karen Madden, the director of Student Support Services, this has been enough to keep the fund from going into the red, but the demand is such that donations are always needed, especially if it is to grow.

The funds are meant for emergencies and have had many uses in all kinds of emergencies. “Most of the funds go towards books or art supplies during the beginning of the semester, and towards the end of the semester the main request if from people who have a small balance and they have a financial hold so they can’t register,” said Madden. “That’s the majority, but sometimes we have requests for a car repair. We’ve had requests from people who live off campus who were about to have their electricity shut off, or even someone who lost their glasses.”

The funds that can be provided to students are limited to $150 once every academic year.
“It’s not much but it does make a difference for some emergencies,” said Madden. “When you fill out the application, it comes to me, and then there’s a committee of five people on campus who read it and approve it, or not. Generally, if they have another way, like if someone is getting a refund in a week, they would not be able to approve it because they’ll have money the next week. Because our money is so limited, we try to make it [go toward] the best use for the most people.”

The fund provides more than just monetary assistance to those who apply. According to Madden, if there is another way, other than providing funds to a student, she’ll assist them in that way.
One example Madden provided was if a student is looking for food, they can provide the student info on the NVU-Johnson Food Pantry.

Madden noted that students should be aware that receiving aid from this fund can affect their financial aid. The form to apply for emergency funds has a note at the top reading, “Please be aware that because there have been changes in the Federal tax laws, emergency funds may impact your financial aid award.”
According to Madden, “The financial aid office also receives the application and they look at the student’s file and tell me if this will impact their financial aid or it might impact their work-study money.
Then I’ll tell the student that it will impact [their aid] and ask if they want it or not.”

The fund had been at NVU-Johnson since 2010. “I attended a workshop put on by a woman from Champlain College, who talked about the emergency fund that they had that was supported by faculty and staff,” said Madden. “So, I brought it back here to President Murphy, the president at the time, and sent her an email with the specifics, and she approved the idea.”

In the past there have been more frequent fundraisers and more pushes to get funds, according to Madden. “In the beginning we had a few events. We used to do this boxed lunch event where people would make up fancy boxed lunches and they’d be auctioned off. That sort of lost steam because people weren’t participating so we haven’t done anything for a while. We do have a fair amount of money that comes in regularly, enough so far to keep us from going into the red so to speak.”

The most important thing about the fund is retaining students at NVU Johnson.
“If you can’t buy gas and can’t get to school, it’s going to be hard for you to do well enough to be successful,” said Madden. “It’s really a stopgap measure. I think just knowing that we have it is a positive thing. Students can think, if something happens, there is a little bit of help.”

For more info about the Student Emergency Fund see Karen Madden in the Student support services office, or visit