As we all adjust to the ongoing COVID-19 threat, it’s clear that the virus has had an effect on all of us in our Viking community.
Our students have had to undergo many significant changes: moving to remote learning, giving up athletics and other on-campus activities, delaying commencement in May for seniors, and in many cases experiencing first hand the effects this virus has on their families. This uncertain time has also taken a toll on their economic wellbeing.
“Most of our students rely on financial aid, savings and work to fund their education,” says Bonnie Galinski, associate vice president for enrollment management at Salem State. “There are times when they run into unexpected circumstances and require financial support in order to stay enrolled. This typically happens at a time when they are faced with several unfortunate circumstances putting them at risk of stopping and possibly not returning.”
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re doing everything we can to meet the needs of our students on an individual basis and address the unanticipated financial hardship of these sudden circumstances.
The university has established the Student Emergency Fund to provide urgent and emergency funds, giving much needed support to our students who are struggling.
“Institutional Advancement saw the need to create an emergency fund when we were continuing to receive requests from the Navigation Center with students who were extremely bright and couldn’t complete because of financial barriers,” Cheryl Crounse, vice president of Institutional Advancement and executive director of the Salem State Foundation, Inc. says. “Then COVID-19 happened and we saw an increase in those requests from students who were voicing more significant challenges as a result of the pandemic. Our view is, if we accept them, we have a responsibility to see them successfully attain their educational goals.“
The money raised goes toward one-time grants to assist students dealing with housing and food insecurity, travel expenses, technology expenses for online learning and other financial challenges.
“The COVID-19 situation is forcing them [students] to make decisions about what bills to pay, between rent, food, utilities, etc., so we are hoping that with some financial assistance we can alleviate some of their most immediate needs,” Rachel Frank, MSW, a student life case manager in the Student Life office says.
“We have also had a large number of students who are parents, sole providers for their families, or financially responsible, in some way, for their immediate families who have lost jobs. The jobs that college students typically hold, babysitting, part-time work, don’t usually qualify them for unemployment so they have been left in really challenging financial situations.”
So far, the emergency fund has helped many deserving students, like Rajib Sapkota ‘21, an international student from Nepal. Rajib had already dealt with the recent passing of his father in 2019, and is now trying to finish his college career amid the pandemic.
“I have only two semesters left to graduate, and I cannot give up at this moment,” Rajib says. “My family is trying their best to fund me for school but unfortunately, my country is under national lockdown because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nobody knows when this crisis will end.”
“I have been moved, but not surprised, by the way that our Viking community has come together to support one another,” said President John Keenan. “I’m incredibly grateful to those who have supported our students as these challenging times present roadblocks in their pursuit of a higher education. The resilience and acts of generosity throughout our campus community have made me prouder than ever to be a Viking.”
And while many things about this pandemic remain uncertain, there has never been a more important time to lift our Vikings up and lend support when we can. This Viking Warrior Day, our third annual giving day, join us for 1,854 minutes as we celebrate our strength as a community and support our students most affected by COVID-19.
For more information on how to make a difference with a donation to the Student Emergency Fund on Viking Warrior Day, please visit our website.