Safety Net

New Hardship Fund helps students faced with unexpected need

Helping Out: Seniors Stephen Ratner and Jordan Stein started the Student Hardship Fund to help students struggling financially.
Kay Hinton

After her mother suffered a work-related accident and subsequently lost her job in 2007, Jarquisha Hollings 13C began to worry about her family’s finances. When her family lost their home in September, her worries were compounded.

She found assistance through a grant from Emory’s new Student Hardship Fund.

“Now I can focus on my academics because at the end of the day, I’m here to be a student, and I don’t want to sacrifice that because my finances aren’t where they’re supposed to be,” she says.

Stephen Ratner 12C and Jordan Stein 12C spearheaded the creation of the Student Hardship Fund to provide financial support to full-time Emory students experiencing financial shortfalls due to “catastrophic events.” The fund is a student-led initiative fueled by donations, with support from the Office of Financial Aid, the Office of the President, the Office of the Provost, and the Emory Alumni Association.

Catastrophic events can include death of a family member, a natural disaster, medical expenses, and other circumstances that can devastate students and leave them struggling to stay in college.

The fund is different from other types of financial aid in that it offers grants awarded to students by their fellow students, making Emory among the first universities to offer such a program. Unlike emergency loans, the fund awards up to $500 with no required repayment.

“It’s an additional safety net for students,” says Ratner, who adds that support from peers is especially important in times of grief or stress.

A committee of graduate and undergraduate students, faculty, and administrators meets once a month to review student grant applications; they met for the first time in November.

The fund does not provide support for tuition, but helps relieve students of other costs so they can focus on their studies.

“We want to help as many students as we can, as much as possible in each circumstance,” Ratner says. “We are confident that even a gift of $500 will go a long way for students who are already up to their necks.”

For example, although Hollings’s tuition is covered by scholarships, she was unable to afford her other expenses. “Being a student requires more than just having your tuition paid,” she says. “The fund helped a lot.”

The work-study student at the Emory Barnes and Noble bookstore says she can now afford essentials such as food and cold-weather clothes.

So far, the student fund has raised an estimated $6,550.

The Student Hardship Fund has “so much potential to foster community building,” Stein says. “Contributions of any amount make every individual who contributes part of this fund, not only in name, but in heart and in mindset.”

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