Each November, Ohio University alumna Deanna Schaeffer pauses to reflect on the Union Street fire of 2014―a fire that destroyed her West Union Street apartment and left her and five roommates displaced for the remainder of the school year. Despite the tragic events of that night, Schaeffer’s reminiscing always culminate with gratitude.
“I remember so well how compassionate, empathetic, supportive and helpful (Student Affairs staff) were to us all in the aftermath of the Union Street fire,” wrote Schaeffer, in an email earlier this month. “The entire OU community really rallied around to support us, and this is something I will never forget and am eternally grateful for.”
Over the years, the DOSA community has come to the aid of many students like Schaeffer, offering clothes, shelter, food and even one-time support funding to students during times of emergency.
“We have always done whatever we could do to support students through crisis, with the hope that our extra support will allow students to rebound or heal here on campus, while continuing their education,” explained Jenny Hall-Jones, senior associate vice president and dean of students. “The problem was that we didn’t have a fund set up for smaller, more personal emergencies for students.”
With this in mind, the Division of Student Affairs set down the path of institutionalizing a new student emergency fund. Thanks to support from a generous donor, these efforts will culminate with the launch of the division’s new micro-grants program in January 2019.
Through the new structure, individual students may apply for a grant of up to $1,000, which can be used to cover safety needs, emergency medical or dental bills, rent, utilities, groceries or child care. The program features a rolling application, whereby students can apply for assistance anytime they are experiencing an emergency situation.
Applications are reviewed by the Office of the Dean of Students and the Office of Student Financial Aid, as well as basic needs committee. Students are limited to one grant per academic year. University bills, including housing and tuition, are not eligible for emergency grant funding.
Assistant Dean of Students Kathy Fahl was hired by the Office of the Dean of Students this past summer to help set the micro-grants program in motion. According to Fahl, insecurity surrounding basic needs among students is more prevalent that most people assume and can result in students dropping out of college.
“We have students who are just struggling to pay for school and housing,” Fahl said. “So if their car breaks down or they have a medical procedure they weren’t expecting and they don’t have the money to pay for that, they might use the money they would normally use for school.”
Prior to the establishment of OHIO’s micro-grants program, the division invested in researching the impact and structure of basic needs programs at institutions of higher education across the country. Among other inspirations, Fahl cited the University of North Carolina’s emergency grants program, which has experienced a 95 percent success rate―meaning 95 percent of students that have received emergency grants are either still in school or have since graduated.
Fahl is hopeful that OHIO’s micro-grants program will realize a similar impact, supporting continued education through the provision of basic needs.
“For some people, paying $500 or $900 may not seem like that much money. But for students who have financial struggles, it’s a lifeline,” Fahl said. “It’s tragic for me to think that a student might leave this institution and not complete their education because of a one-time emergency. That shouldn’t prevent someone from getting a degree, which will ultimately help them break the cycle of poverty.”
Support OHIO’s micro-grants program
The continuation of DOSA’s micro-grants program depends upon the generous support of Ohio University’s alumni and friends. To support the retention of Bobcats facing emergency situations, visit www.ohio.edu/advancement/gift.cfm.