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COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

Questions are organized according to the form of support during the COVID-19 crisis:
Hardship Scholarships, Student Emergency Fund Assistance, and Student Excellence Fund.

If you can't find the answer to your question below, please contact us.

(651) 962-6950
(800) 328-6819, ext. 2-6950
development@stthomas.edu

Hardship Scholarships

Hardship scholarships are a form of financial aid that is awarded to current students who are experiencing difficulty with paying tuition and fees, usually due to a change in their financial circumstances. These scholarships are awarded outside the regular financial aid/scholarship packaging process.

 


Hardship scholarships may be applied to any expense that appears on a student’s bill from the university. These expenses including tuition, fees, room, and board. Occasionally books may also be charged to a student’s account.


After discussing with a financial aid counselor, students can submit an appeal either using an online form for the Special Circumstances Fund or by sending an email to Financial Aid. Scholarship appeals are reviewed on a weekly basis throughout the year through the Office of Student Financial Aid. A committee reviews appeals and decides on recipients and award amounts.


Submitted appeals vary from a handful to 20-30 per week. On average, Financial Aid receives 10 appeals per week or 500 per year. Recently there has been an uptick in requests, some related to COVID-19, and we anticipate that these numbers will grow in the coming weeks and months.


All St. Thomas students are eligible to file an appeal during the current crisis. Most appeals result from a student’s changing circumstances, such as death or illness of a parent, parent business or job loss, the student’s own job loss, and physical or mental health issues requiring expensive treatment.


Hardship financial aid depends on the amount of need and available funding. On average, awards range from $1000 to $2,000 but rarely cover the full amount the student's needs.


Awards are made for a single year. In some cases, a student’s financial difficulties may be temporary while in others, they may span more than one year of the student’s time at St. Thomas. In this case, the student needs to reapply each year to be considered for a hardship scholarship.


No. Even the institutional, federal, and privately funded scholarships available are not enough to meet the demand for hardship scholarships. Not only do we lack the funds to support all the students who appeal for hardship funds, but we also have insufficient funds to fully meet students’ needs. For example, a student may need $12,000 to cover her tuition bill, but the maximum she will receive is $3,000.


Even in normal times, there are substantial numbers of students who have trouble paying tuition and fees and who experience housing insecurity, food insecurity, and transportation difficulty in getting to campus. With COVID-19, we anticipate a substantial increase in the number of students whose family and personal circumstances have been affected by the pandemic, which could result in a 25 percent or more increase in hardship requests.

Yes, there is a concern that students considering St. Thomas may not be able to afford to attend. Incoming students and their parents are in regular contact with Financial Aid to discuss these matters and find a solution. Incoming students will be notified about their financial aid packages in mid-April, and the appeals process will begin after that time.

 


Now more than ever, donors can make a tremendous impact with their gifts to support scholarships. A gift to the St. Thomas Scholarship Fund will help the university provide much-needed emergency aid to help both current and incoming students afford the cost of a St. Thomas education. This fund provides unrestricted, flexible scholarship funds that can be awarded quickly to students experiencing financial hardship so that they can enroll or remain at the university and successfully complete their degrees. This includes both St. Thomas’s neediest students as well as students from middle income families who experience unexpected financial hardship brought on by the current crisis or other changing life circumstances. Outright gifts for current use will make the biggest impact at this time.


Student Emergency Assistance Fund

This fund has been in existence since the early 1990s. It was created to assist students who are unable to meet immediate, essential expenses due to a temporary financial hardship and funding awarded under this program does not have to be repaid. Students may apply for emergency funds when other resources have been exhausted or are unavailable in a timely manner.

Emergency funding is not intended to replace or supplement financial aid. Examples of expenses that may be funded include, but are not limited to:

  • Rental payments or the costs of temporary housing
  • Medical expenses, including prescribed medications
  • Essential transportation and travel-related expenses
  • Utilities, including internet connection expenses
  • Food

Students apply through a form found here.
Factors that are considered include the student’s financial need, the nature of the funding request, and the availability of funding at the time the request is made. Priority will be given to students with high financial need.

This fund has been primarily funded through philanthropic donations. This year, due to the COVID-19 crisis, the Undergraduate Student Government voted to transfer $75,000 of activity fees to this fund.

Within the first three weeks of this crisis, we received 350 emergency aid applications totaling nearly $200,000, and we expect this need to continue to grow in the months ahead.

To be considered for assistance, the student must be enrolled at St. Thomas in a degree-granting program. Funds are primarily available for Dougherty Family College and undergraduate students. Limited funding is available for graduate students. The School of Law is raising money for its own Emergency Fund.

No. The need is great, ongoing and increasing. Based on the pace of requests received as soon as the application was launched, much more funding will be required. Many stories of struggle have come forth, including unemployed students and parents, health concerns, caregiving, housing and food insecurity. The stories students shared are truly heartbreaking, and it indicates that there are tremendous needs among our students.

Grants will usually be $750 or less. Students may receive a one-time grant of emergency funding each academic term. Students must provide documentation of the expenses to be covered (such as copies of billing statements or receipts). Costs that are not documented cannot be considered.

The university is working to support students and keep them on track for their graduation goals, including:
  • Students living on campus who have moved back home for the remainder of the semester will receive a pro-rated housing refund.
  • Students will receive pro-rated refunds based on unused meal plans.
  • Students who purchased parking passes and who are no longer using them will receive partial refunds.
  • All student workers will continue to receive a bi-weekly payment equivalent to the average number of hours they have worked per week in the spring semester and are being allowed to work from home.

Donors can make a real impact by giving to the Student Emergency Assistance Fund. This fund is helping students who have major unexpected non-tuition expenses as a result of the virus outbreak and response: those experiencing lost employment, rent and other housing costs, food insecurity, travel needs and other hardships.

 


Student Excellence Fund

The Student Excellence Fund is an unrestricted fund that allows university leadership important flexibility to provide immediate support to the areas and people impacted most, for example, supporting the university’s shift to 100% online courses, virtual faculty office hours, and increased virtual access for students to health care and counseling. The fund helps ensure we are always providing the highest level academic and co-curricular experience possible for our students, regardless of delivery method.  


Gifts to the Student Excellence Fund can be used immediately where they are needed most. These unrestricted gifts are expended in the same fiscal year in which they are received and can touch every facet of the student experience. Currently the environment in which we operate is changing rapidly; unrestricted gifts allow the university to adapt quickly and nimbly.

 


St. Thomas has seen significant cost increases due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including student and faculty travel due to canceled study abroad programs, IT investments associated with the move to 100 percent online learning, and increased supplies for cleaning and sanitizing. In addition, St. Thomas is experiencing significant income impacts due to closing the campus, with reductions in housing, food service, conference and parking fees.

There are significant impacts anticipated as well, including additional costs for instructional designers to move all our summer courses online. The university will continue to experience income impacts as long as the campus remains closed due to social distancing requirements.