COVID-19 Response

Receiving Relief

Oakland University COVID-19 Student Relief Fund helps students with most urgent financial needs

Screenshot of Student Relief Fund

Student Success

icon of a calendarJune 2, 2020

icon of a pencilBy Kristina Lindberg

Share this story

The Oakland University COVID-19 Student Relief Fund has helped 136 OU students with their most urgent financial needs since the coronavirus pandemic upended normal life across campus and created financial hardships for many.

The response from the OU community has been great: As of May 27, 305 donors have raised almost $49,000 of the $60,000 goal.

OU Director of Annual Giving Kelly Brault says this fund has raised more money than many other crowdfunding campaigns.

“The response has been really wonderful,” says Brault. “People want to help OU students and this fund enables them to help in a very meaningful way. Many donors add comments, which range from ‘Wishing OU students the best’ to ‘Go Grizzlies’ to ‘Glad to help.’ Some people have given more than once, some have given to more than one fund,” she says.

The COVID-19 Student Relief Fund is an extension of the Student Emergency Fund that was set up more than a year ago to help students whose education might be derailed because of personal hardships. 

Dean of Students Michael Wadsworth says students started applying immediately for financial assistance. “It’s been a steady response,” he says.

Wadsworth says the pandemic sped up the process of setting up the fund. “We were in the process of trying to figure out how to use it when COVID-19 happened. We quickly came up with a process for getting funds to students.”

In addition to donations from the community to the COVID-19 Student Relief Fund, the fund also includes money raised through telefund and other sources.

As of May 27, $86,776 of the funds have been distributed. The majority of applicants cite not being able to work as the main driving force for requesting financial help. While most of the money has been allocated to help students with housing insecurities — a total of $38,085 so far — the fund has also been covering other expenses, such as utilities, Internet, food, transportation and other basic necessities.

Students who want to apply send an email to the dean of students, who then sends back a list of many different resources, including the OU Food Pantry and Student Financial Services.

The fund was created to assist with housing, emergency lodging, essential belongings, transportation, food insecurities, emergency medical treatment and other basic necessities and is meant for enrolled students who can provide documentation of their financial hardships.

If students apply for help with items that are not covered under the relief fund, Wadsworth directs them to other offices that can help.

Wadsworth reached out to communications sophomore Chantell Phillips to let her know about the Relief Fund.

“He knew my situation coming into Oakland University,” Phillips says. “He reached out to me to see if I was OK and to see if I needed help, which I did.”

Phillips lost her mother during her senior year of high school. “My mom was my only support system,” she says. Her mom’s passing left Phillips homeless, leaving her to jump from house to house until she moved into a dorm on campus. Before the coronavirus crisis, Phillips was able to work. When the virus began to spread, it impacted her work and living situation. Forced to move out of her dorm, Phillips found herself homeless again. She is currently staying at her sister’s apartment. “Since everything is shut down, it’s hard to work,” Phillips says. “It definitely affected me being able to get the things I need.”

Receiving help from the Student Relief Fund enabled her to buy food and other basic necessities, she says.

“Thank you to Oakland for having a Relief Fund that is going to help me out and is helping out a lot of other students,” Phillips says.

Another student, Elizabeth LaCoursier, a management information systems junior, was supposed to work this summer to save up money to help fix her sister’s car, which also serves as her transportation. The coronavirus pandemic put an end to her plans. 

“I don’t know what we would have done without the fund for transportation,” she says. She says she is grateful to Oakland University for the help.

Wadsworth says it has been great seeing the OU community come together to help students during these difficult times.

“At some point, there was a colleague I work with who said he wanted to donate his and his wife’s stimulus check to this fund. It’s been great to see everybody coming together to help students during this time. It’s been great to able to help students because there is such a great need out there,” he says.

Learn more about the Student Relief Fund or support additional students by donating today


Share this story