The Students in Crisis Fund, which assists students experiencing economic emergencies, will remain available for the foreseeable future as an option for financial help.
Salt Lake Community College Foundation – a nonprofit dedicated to helping SLCC students – formally introduced the crisis fund in March 2020 to aid students who faced serious financial disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic’s urgency made broad accessibility to the fund a priority.
“The goal was to take out all the restrictions for students and to deploy funds as quickly as possible,” said SLCC Development Officer Laura Thomas. “Students were losing their jobs; some were afraid of losing shelter. It was a very tough time.”
During the same month, lawmakers under the Trump administration passed the coronavirus relief bill known as the CARES Act. The bill provided funding to colleges and universities to cover institutional costs and help students in need.
SLCC received $5.32 million for student allocation, according to the U.S. Department of Education. However, the federal emergency was only available to U.S. citizens, leaving undocumented and international students with very few options for support.
The crisis fund, sponsored by private donations through SLCC Foundation, could award money to any registered student at the college – and demand was high.
“[The Foundation] looked at unrestricted endowments and investment earnings and was able to free up $100,000 for immediate dispersal,” Thomas said of the fund’s initial batch of money. “It was spent in two to three days.”
Dean of Students and Assistant Vice President Ken Stonebrook, who oversees the crisis fund, emphasized the demand, stating there have been no left-over funds from semester to semester.
Since Spring 2020, the crisis fund has helped 392 students with funds disbursed totaling $371,868.
Before the pandemic, Thomas and Stonebrook would help students in crisis on an individual basis.
“We would identify a student in crisis and my office and others would work together to find available funds,” Stonebrook said. “Now, we have a more centralized process along with an application process.”
The Emergency Student Aid webpage hosts information on current coronavirus aid applications, which includes CRRSAA, a relief bill passed by federal lawmakers in December. Under the Biden administration, the U.S. Department of Education has removed citizenship eligibility requirements for CRRSAA.
However, the application for Students in Crisis is currently disabled due to a lack of substantial funds. The SLCC Foundation is actively fundraising for the crisis fund and hopes to reopen the application form soon.
Beyond the pandemic, the crisis fund will remain available, but Stonebrook noted the application criteria are likely to change.
“The crisis fund will go on,” he said. “We’re better positioned moving forward than we were two or three years ago.”
In addition to CRRSAA and Students in Crisis, Assistant Director of Financial Aid Samantha DeLaCerda said SLCC plans to use funding from the ARP Act – passed by federal lawmakers in March – during the fall 2021 semester.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, SLCC will receive $21.5 million for student allocation and will be available to undocumented and international students.