money (bills)

We’ve all read news stories about how the current COVID-19 situation is negatively impacting businesses and their employees in Colorado. Unfortunately, this means many of our students aren’t receiving paychecks from the jobs they depend on to support themselves.

Over the last few weeks, FRCC has rushed to provide almost $600,000 in emergency grants to more than 1,100 of our students—helping them cover rent and buy food and other essentials. The college has also given out 150 laptops to help students in need continue their classes remotely this semester. 

COVID Causing Hardship

Many Coloradans have been laid off or furloughed. In just the first three weeks after the outbreak began in Colorado, more than 127,000 people filed new unemployment claims.

Because so many of FRCC’s students are working to put themselves through school, that loss of income has a significant impact on our college community. When students are unable to work, many struggle to cover their rent, food, utilities and other necessities.

So when FRCC leadership began looking at ways to provide some extra financial assistance to students, there was a very real sense of urgency. “We had to make our efforts as quickly as we could to support students during this unprecedented time,” said Gillian McKnight-Tutein, vice president of academic and student affairs at FRCC.

How the Money Helps

To date, 1,181 FRCC students have been given emergency grants of $500 each (totaling $590,500). An additional 150 students have received laptops from FRCC to complete their classes online.

Here’s how the recipients are spending the funds:

Category Student Count Percent
Rent/Mortgage/Housing 490 36.81%
Laptop/Other Tech Needs 318 23.89%
Food/Groceries 174 13.07%
Utility Bills 138 10.37%
Car Repair 74 5.56%
Gas and Groceries 54 4.06%
Medical Expenses 41 3.08%
Childcare 21 1.58%
Internet/Tech Bills 21 1.58%
Grand Total 1331 100.00%

Each FRCC campus also held a laptop distribution for students who applied and needed computers. One student receiving a new laptop expressed genuine relief—he had been about to drop out of all his classes because he had been unable to move to the online learning system.

Here’s what another student had to say after receiving their $500 grant:

I just wanted to send you a big thank you for posting the information about the emergency student grants. I have unfortunately lost my job due to the coronavirus, and I am high risk anyway so I shouldn’t be out and working with the public.

So I applied for the grant to be able to buy my insulin and my other medicines for my diabetes, and I was very lucky to be granted some money. Without this grant, I would have had a very hard time affording my prescriptions as I currently have no income. So, I just wanted to send you all of my thanks from myself and my family!

Another appreciative student wrote in:

Thank you very much for the grant!! And thank you to you and all involved in transitioning to the online learning format, which is allowing me to finish the semester and earn the credits I need!!

Getting the Money to Students Who Need It

Awarding this type of emergency aid isn’t quite as easy as you might think—especially with the current COVID-related social distancing requirements. (Clearly, you can’t simply set up a table where a cashier writes checks to any students who happen to show up.) There was a lot of behind-the-scenes work to be done to create a streamlined process for students to apply—and receive aid quickly.

A large team effort involved staff from financial aid, the cashiers’ office, fiscal services, institutional research, student communications (to help get the word out), the FRCC Foundation and the college’s leadership team. Everyone pitched in—working extra hours (including nights and weekends) on top of their regular jobs.

“We made sure that all funds are going directly to assist our students who are experiencing unexpected financial burdens,” said McKnight-Tutein. Through this new process, students are receiving emergency aid to cover rent, medical bills, utilities, laptops—and other items to help them overcome financial barriers to completion of the semester.

Once all the background work—of gathering data, creating electronic forms and ensuring security— was complete, the process was in place and ready to move forward quickly. To apply for emergency assistance, all students had to do was simply fill out a straightforward application available on FRCC’s COVID-19 webpage.

 “This team has done tremendous work to get these funds into the hands of those who need it most,” said McKnight-Tutein. “They have offered literal lifelines to buoy our students at a time when so many are sinking.”

Where Did the Money Come From?

FRCC disbursed the most recent round of emergency grant funding to students on April 13. Approximately $540,000 of the grant monies distributed to students came from the college’s general fund.

An additional $50,000 of funding came from the FRCC Foundation—the college’s fundraising arm. The foundation’s board of directors authorized the reallocation of funds to support students in this way. These dollars had been raised through donations from supporters of the college—including community members, staff and faculty—who believe strongly in FRCC’s mission of enriching lives through learning.

We’re Not Done Yet

“In addition, our donors have risen to the challenge and we have raised just over $75,000 through the High Needs Fund,” said Ryan McCoy, executive director of the FRCC Foundation. “The extra funds raised have gone to support these emergency grants, specifically to purchase laptops for students who need them to finish their classes this semester.”

And of course, the COVID situation may not be over for some months—so the foundation continues to raise money for its High Needs Fund. “The FRCC Foundation is committed to soliciting funds for the High Needs Fund to support our most at-risk students,” added McCoy. “Thanks to the generosity of our donors, we can all do something to help FRCC students get through these extremely challenging circumstances.”

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