Colleges offer emergency funds to studentsBy Yasmine Regester, Peacemaker Staff Writer / April 2, 2020
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During a time that college campuses are usually buzzing with the excitement of a new semester, students have instead packed up their belongings and are looking for ways to stay afloat.
After orders from N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper for all UNC campuses to close on March 17, thousands of students across the state were forced to make unexpected arrangements to return home or to an off-campus location, and transition to online learning.
There are currently 176 students who remain in housing at N.C. A&T State University, a decrease in the original tally of 276 students on March 24. Students are being housed in Aggie Village (a four-building complex where three of the buildings are being utilized), according to John Lowney, Ph.D., executive director of Housing and Residence Life.
At various UNC System schools, including North Carolina A&T, a Student Emergency Fund is in place to receive donations to go towards providing financial assistance to students. Applications for A&T’s Student Emergency Fund awards closed on March 30. University officials have begun distributing the more than $17,000 that has been raised so far. The university received 2,352 student applications; however, not all will be approved for assistance based on the requirements in place.
University officials say they are aware that some students depended on the service industry or campus jobs to support their expenses. The sudden campus closures have left many with limited resources or no means to buy food, acquire the internet access necessary for online courses, and pay their rent and/or storage fees.
A&T alumna, Aiyisha Adams class of ‘02, has been posting online to help spread the word about the Student Emergency Fund.
“The reality is there are students on campus who aren’t able to get home, those who may be off-campus but can’t work, and can’t afford toiletries and food, or may not have internet access because the campus has shut down. When those things aren’t [in] place, then they are not able to fulfill their obligations as a student,” said Adams.
“I just tell people to think back to when they were that broke college student, and then imagine how magnified that is now with what is going on with COVID-19. As alumni, we have to step up and give back to help our younger Aggies out,” she added.
The university shared that it has provided all students with a meal plan, including students who reside in off-campus apartments, for the remainder of the semester. There is a community kitchen that has been made available for students to use in Aggie Village. Students may remain on campus for the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester until May 9, 2020.
On March 24, A&T announced on its website that it had a confirmed case of COVID-19 on its campus, but did not specify whether it was an employee or student. The release stated that the university partnered with local health officials to stop the spread of the virus and further modified its on-campus operations. As of April 1, at least four other Triad universities have reported COVID-19 cases connected to their institutions. That list includes High Point University, Elon University, Wake Forest University and Winston-Salem State University.
The university has also been making academic adjustments for students. On March 30, N.C. A&T Executive Vice Chancellor Dr. Beryl McEwen and the Division of Academic Affairs approved an option for undergraduate and graduate students to choose pass/fail grading rather than letter grading for the Spring 2020 semester.
Aaliyah Strickland, a junior Journalism and Mass Communications major at A&T, noted that while that may be helpful to some students, she was concerned on how a pass/fail grade could impact her overall GPA.
“We want to know about the classes that we paid for and can’t take now. Not all classes are offered online,” said Strickland, adding that online learning has been an adjustment.
“Professors are still assigning work. Some professors are used to teaching one way and now they have to learn and adapt to new technology to continue to teach. And as students, we just have to adjust and be patient with them,” she said.
Strickland is also a Walmart employee so she has still been able to work, but she is aware that some of her classmates aren’t as fortunate.
“I have classmates in Greensboro that can’t work, but they are still getting emails from their apartment complexes that rent is due, and the bills keep coming,” she said.
A&T also notified its students that they can be granted partial refunds on housing and dining fees for the Spring term.
Alumni and anyone who would like to help can learn more information by visiting @NCATGiving on Twitter or Facebook and they can donate by texting Aggie to 71777.