Providing relief when students need it most

by Catalina Myers  |   

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and pre-nursing student Merlin Lang found himself unemployed, UAA's Student Support Fund provided a financial safety net so he could continue his education. (Photo by James Evans / University of Alaska Anchorage)

Just as students have many options for areas of study when pursuing their degree, donors have a wide variety of options to make a huge impact in students’ lives. From investing in undergraduate research, which opens doors and provides UAA students a unique experience to add to their resume, to student scholarships and emergency relief, both of which offer financial support for students experiencing financial hardship.

More than ever this year, emergency relief through UAA’s Student Support Fund, in the wake of COVID-19, has helped more than 400 students stay in school while navigating this global dilemma. The fund, created more than 20 years ago to aid students experiencing a financial crisis, has distributed $13,000 this semester and continues to provide students relief to cover basic expenses such as groceries, utility bills, mortgage payments and unexpected medical costs. 

For pre-nursing student Merlin Lang, the fund provided the financial support he needed after losing his job when the pandemic hit. After filing for unemployment through the State of Alaska and while waiting to see if he had qualified for federal unemployment funds, money started to get tight in a hurry. 

To Lang’s relief, his professor had sent an email shortly after UAA had transitioned students to alternate delivery for the remainder of the spring semester, and he responded with his concerns about making it financially. She notified him of the fund and helped walk him through the process and Lang received $500 to help cover the cost of rent and living expenses.

“A little goes a long way when you’re not making any money,” said Lang. The $500 was just enough to keep him in his apartment and help him cover utilities. He said a few months later, a representative from the fund reached out to notify him that he qualified for additional funding — which for Lang was unexpected, needed and perfect timing.

“The fund exists because we know from time to time that students experience these crises or unanticipated emergencies,” said Bruce Schultz, UAA’s vice chancellor for Student Affairs. “Sometimes students find themselves in a position where they don’t have the resources to solve those issues on their own. This emergency fund is all about helping students persist and complete their education.”

For Lang and the more than 400 students who have benefited from the Student Emergency Fund — supported by gifts from generous donors — the financial relief allowed him and his peers to continue along their educational paths and move one step closer to graduation.

If you would like to help students like Merlin, consider making a gift through Giving Day. You can donate to the Student Support Fund or to any campus, college or program.

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