The COVID-19 pandemic, the subsequent lockdowns and economic recession left many college students with financial struggles that did not exist for them before.
Temple University must do better in promoting their emergency aid fund, a resource for students facing unusual or unforeseen circumstances with short-term financial assistance for those instances because many students are unaware of its existence. The university should encourage professors to speak to their students about the fund, promote the fund on social media and send out emails with emergency fund information.
For more than 10 years Temple’s Student Affairs has offered its own emergency aid fund. However, many students are unaware of the program.
If students knew about the program, they could apply for access to funds that could help pay expenses that they may not have been able to pay without the fund.
To be eligible for the fund, individuals must be enrolled as full-time students at Temple, demonstrate financial hardship, exhaust alternative options and provide documentation of expenses they are trying to receive aid for, like medical bills or car repair bills, according to the Dean of Students.
The Office of Student Affairs promotes the fund primarily through its website, wrote Rachael Stark, senior associate dean of students, in an email to The Temple News.
Additionally, professors can refer students to the fund, Stark wrote.
“If a student discloses to their faculty member that they can’t afford the text book for their class, we would hope that the faculty member would mention the fund to the student so they can apply for emergency aid,” Stark wrote.
About 40 percent of students experienced financial disruption during the pandemic, with about eight percent withdrawing from courses or taking a leave of absence, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
More than one in two Philadelphia-area college students experienced basic needs insecurity, during the pandemic but only 16 percent of those who experienced food insecurity actually accessed benefits to assist them, according to a May 2021 survey from Temple’s Hope Center for College, Community and Justice.
Temple does not currently advertise the fund except by posting information on the fund’s website, Stark wrote.
“This fund isn’t something that needs to be advertised, it is available to those who are facing an emergency,” Stark wrote.
While it is true that this fund is for emergency use only, students who are facing financial difficulties need to be made aware of this program without having to search for it online.
After previously hearing about Temple’s emergency aid fund for students, what the fund is and does for students is still unclear, said Mackenzie Reed, a sophomore tourism and hospitality management major.
“It’s important for Temple to promote this fund because, in doing so, they can ensure that students are able to continue to get a good education even through troubling times,” Reed said.
Declines in enrollment for Fall 2020 suggested that students who were likely experiencing basic needs insecurity did not enroll, according to the Hope Center survey.
Only 20.1 percent of first-year accepted applicants enrolled at Temple in Fall 2020, its lowest enrollment rate since at least 2013 and a 13.4 percent decrease from Fall 2019, The Temple News reported.
Maiya Barker, junior public relations major, was also unaware of the Student Emergency Aid Fund, and believes Temple should make changes to the TU Portal to reach more students, she said.
“They could update the portal or make sure everybody gets emails,” Barker said.
Students would be able to better access information about the student aid on social media, and the university should also add new features to the TU portal to notify students, Reed said.
“They could add a notification feature so people can get alerted when information about the emergency aid fund is posted on the Portal,” Reed said.
Temple must make their emergency aid fund more well-known to students who are facing financial emergencies, or some may not be able to continue their education due to other expenses.
While the university should be requiring professors to tell students about resources, this cannot be a primary source of communication. Temple must make the effort to reach students where they are as opposed to relying on them to find information.