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Hardship Scholarship Frequently Asked Questions

As a result of COVID-19, the need for hardship scholarships for students is increasing. Many questions have arisen about funding and awarding hardship scholarships.  If you can't find the answer to your question below, please contact us.

(651) 962-6950
(800) 328-6819, ext. 2-6950

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.