The idea started a few years ago when Assistant Vice President and Dean for Student Life Lisa Landreman found out a student was living out of their car after being evicted from their home and estranged from their family.
She knew action had to be taken.
Now the university has embarked upon a formal initiative recognizing that some students may face serious financial challenges that threaten to derail their education.
A new page on the university website highlights initiatives and resources to support students who need help. The “Financial Well-being Resources” page went live at the beginning of the semester; Landreman sent out an all-student email on Feb. 3, providing the link to the page. The site pledges to support the ability of students to meet their short- and long-term financial goals “within an established budget and current resources.”
Available resources include student employment, housing assistance and the Hawks’ Closet, which provides students with access to professional clothing, as well as jewelry, shoes and winter coats.
“Money isn’t something we like to talk about in our culture,” Landreman said.
The university also encouraged faculty members to include a basic needs statement in their syllabi to inform students about the new page on the website.
Other initiatives taken include that of former Director of Residential Life and Housing Tony Montefusco. After leaving his position of 26 years in November 2018, a student emergency fund was created in his name. Montefusco donated his last paycheck to start the fund.
Examples of assistance for which students may request help include out-of-pocket medical or dental expenses; purchasing eyeglasses, contact lenses or hearing aids; replacing essential personal items or providing temporary housing after a disaster or theft; and help purchasing textbooks or course supplies. Assistance can also be requested to cover emergency travel needs; test prep courses; winter coats and boots; and costs associated with student activities.
“The struggle is there are a finite number of resources, it’s an interesting balance of supporting students but I also know there are going to be limits,” Landreman explained.
Montefusco wasn’t the only generous donor. President Ioannis Miaoulis offered a one-time donation at the Winter Illuminations event last December. Additionally, Student Senate committed $2,500 a year from its budget to the fund.
Leftover food from dinner in Upper Commons is also available for students in need who can visit the food pantry cooler in Lower Commons daily.
“I think it’s hard for people to ask for help sometimes when they’re in need,” said Theresa Capelo, associate director for housing operations.