In the first weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic this spring, Catholic University decided to change its Founders Day plans. Often, the day is marked by fundraising for the University’s general fund. This year, fundraising focused on the unexpected costs of the pandemic: to help students who were financially impacted by the pandemic through emergency aid and tuition assistance and provide funding upgrades to the University to assist virtual instruction.
More than $900,000 has been raised through the Light the Way Crisis Response Fund. More than $100,000 in emergency aid has been distributed to students who applied for assistance through the Office of the Dean of Students. The Office of Enrollment Management is starting to distribute one-time tuition assistance grants for students returning in the fall. These are meant to aid students whose families have experienced financial hardship as a result of the pandemic.
Additionally, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provided the University with more than $1 million to distribute to students.
“These two funding sources were the difference in some students' ability to continue their academic pursuits, and illustrate how alumni and friends of Catholic University care for our students' experiences both inside and outside the classroom,” said Judi Biggs Garbuio, vice president for Student Affairs.
“To the donors: Thank you very much for your help to the attending students at CUA,” wrote one recipient of a Light the Way grant. “The COVID-19 pandemic is breaking the world apart, but what you have done shows the students that we are all in this together, looking after each other. It is truly an extraordinary out-of-classroom educational experience. I feel happy to be part of the CUA family.”
Some students received grants to buy computers and books that they otherwise would not have been able to afford. A student-seminarian was able to use a grant to pay for his food while living in a parish that took him in and provided lodging. An out-of-work chaplain who was a student benefited from a grant when he was no longer able to safely work in the facility where he was assigned. One student, whose parent died in May, was able to get assistance to help with unexpected medical payments.
One doctoral student shared, “My family and I are very delighted, and thankful with the great support we received during this crisis. I spent the $500 paying utility bills, and getting some food for my four kids.”
Of those students that applied for assistance, close to 82% have received assistance through the Light the Way Crisis Response Fund or CARES Act funds.
“While the Light the Way Crisis Response fund helps ensure that our students experiencing crisis can make it through these times and continue their studies, it also helps the University rise to meet challenges that lie ahead in the current environment,” said Scott Rembold, vice president for University Advancement. “These generous donors have kept our Catholic University family together and made it stronger.”
While The Light the Way Crisis Response Fund and CARES Act funding have helped more than 1,000 students and their families and helped address the University’s costs to move to a fully online educational delivery model this past spring, they did not meet the full individual and institutional needs. Donations are still being accepted to help students receive tuition assistance and help equip classrooms with the technology needed to allow for virtual learning through this pandemic and well into the future.