This article has been a collaborative effort of Melisa Olgun ’20 and Elizabeth Ouanemalay ‘23.
The world is on fire. Everything is literally a mess. And especially for first-generation, low-income (FGLI) students, the world is in a particular firey and messy state. Wesleyan has attempted to provide financial support for FGLI students through various emergency funds, but students are still facing extraordinary uncertainty with a dwindling job market, stay-at-home orders, and apprehension towards entering the essential workforce in fears of contracting coronavirus. The FGLI GoFundMe addresses these concerns and continues to campaign to further its reach and continue providing support to students. The government (kind of) did a good thing by sponsoring the CARES Act, providing grants to colleges and universities around the US. This article examines what the CARES Act is, what it does, and what the University is planning on doing with the over 2 million dollars they have received.
The CARES Act
The CARES Act: Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund gives funding to institutions to provide emergency financial aid grants to students facing financial struggle due to COVID-19. Students who have filed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) are qualified to receive these grants, although the financial threshold is ultimately decided by the university. Institutions may provide emergency financial aid grants using checks, electronic transfer payments, debit cards, and other payment apps. Debts, charges, fees, or other amounts owed to the institution may not be deducted from the grant given to the student. No less than 50 percent of funds given to the University must be used as direct emergency grants to students. The other 50 percent of funds may be used to further support students who have faced financial uncertainty due to COVID-19.
Dear Wesleyan Alumni, Community Members, and Everybody Else!
Today, I am reaching out on behalf of the GoFundMe that launched on March 15th to support first-generation, low-income, and/or housing insecure students in light of Wesleyan University’s closure. The purpose of this article is threefold:
- To clarify the goals of our student-led grassroots campaign
- To distinguish our effort from the official Wesleyan emergency fund
- To encourage students to donate their RCF refund to the GoFundMe campaign.
- Our Campaign in a Paragraph
The goal of the GoFundMe is to place resources directly into the hands of high-need, at-risk students. Since Wesleyan’s closure, low-income students have either returned home, straining the budget of their already hardpressed households, or petitioned to remain on campus. As a first-generation, low-income student whose mother works as a janitor, each day is filled with the constant worry that we will lose our income. I have had an unprecedented amount of stress worrying about my financial stability. Social distancing and large-scale efforts to quarantine, though necessary for the safety of the public, have only exacerbated the everyday conditions of poverty. Rapidly, parents are losing their jobs, and our fellow FGLI students do not know how they will afford rent, utilities, groceries, routine medical expenses, and other recurring costs that do not stop for national emergencies. Moreover, the recent U.S. stimulus bill does not contain any financial relief for adult dependents, meaning that students do not qualify for monthly relief checks. The needs of Wesleyan’s at-risk student body cannot be reduced to a single narrative, but each and every story shares a sense of urgency. Therefore, our campaign, which is titled FGLI Wesleyan Student Donations, operates under the belief that direct financial donations best meet the fluctuating, varied needs of low-income students as they face the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Figure 1. To help students self-assess their level of need, we provided example statements. The graphic above includes descriptions for level 1 (approximately 10%), level 3 (approximately 55%), and level 5 (approximately 2%) students.