It takes more than financial aid to help students endure a pandemic. (But it’s a start)

Providing relief and support options ensures that students may continue, or begin, their college journeys
Francesco C. Cesareo is president of Assumption College in Massachusetts.
Francesco C. Cesareo is president of Assumption College in Massachusetts.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant disruption throughout the nation. As colleges quickly transitioned to remote learning, across the country millions of jobs dissipated almost instantly, adding to the untold challenges of those severely affected by COVID-19.

Among the more than 20 million Americans—more than half a million of whom live in Massachusetts where Assumption is located—who have lost their jobs, have been furloughed, experienced reduced hours, or unfortunately, have been affected by the coronavirus, are college students and their families.

Read: Updated: 85 free higher ed resources during coronavirus pandemic

Offering financial relief

Recognizing the abrupt and unexpected financial burdens created by the pandemic, the board of trustees of Assumption (soon to be Assumption University this summer) approved the creation of a $3 million Coronavirus Financial Aid Relief Fund to provide additional financial assistance to students in need of support due to these startling and unforeseen challenges.

Support from the fund will provide additional financial aid to students to ensure that they may return to campus to complete their degree program, and will also provide assistance to those accepted to Assumption whose families have been impacted by the pandemic.

Through the relief fund, eligible families may apply for room grants up to $8,500 and tuition grants up to $10,000 for the 2020-21 academic year. Students returning to Assumption in the fall, as well as students accepted to Assumption for the Class of 2024, are eligible to apply for these need-based, one-time financial aid grants.

Through Assumption’s relief fund, eligible families may apply for room grants up to $8,500 and tuition grants up to $10,000 for the 2020-21 academic year.

The fund is one of many efforts sponsored by Assumption to provide ongoing support to students to encourage continued, meaningful engagement with the college amid this situation. As a college founded on Catholic principles of faith, community and service, it is our moral responsibility to provide for our students and their families—our campus family—during this time of uncertainty.

Supporting students

As jobless claims rise amid stay-at-home orders and financial markets fluctuate wildly, it is paramount that our students and their families are provided innovative relief and support options to ensure that they may continue, or begin, the transformational journey of personal and vocational discovery an Assumption education provides—despite their changing financial situations. These options will help remove an obstacle to pursue and achieve a college degree.

Even those families who carefully planned and saved for their child’s college education may find themselves adversely affected by this pandemic, as it has paused the global economy, uniquely impacting many current and prospective Assumption families. This Coronavirus Financial Aid Relief Fund represents our commitment to our students and families who, under normal conditions, make sacrifices to provide their sons and daughters with an Assumption education. But we recognize that more than financial aid is needed to support our students during this crisis.

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In addition to the fund, since the onset of the outbreak, we have been engaging with our students virtually as faculty and staff have continued to offer them support. As they converted homes into classrooms and offices on short notice, support for students continues, uninterrupted.

In addition to faculty who are holding classes and office hours remotely, staff—including vital offices such as tutoring, counseling, health and career services—are holding meetings, “drop in” calls and office hours to ensure Assumption maintains the deeply personal connections to students. Campus Ministry livestreams masses and offers regular programming so that students may continue to rely upon and strengthen their faith during this vexing time. Much of this information is communicated by me in weekly videos I record from campus which are shared with students and parents. Our division of Student Affairs has also been sponsoring various activities virtually so that students remain connected with each other and the college.

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Despite the health, financial and personal challenges presented by COVID-19, the work of Assumption continues, as it does at institutions of higher learning across the country.

It is impressive and edifying to witness the collective response of the higher education community, including Assumption, during this uncertain and unsettling time to provide for students and their families in their time of need. It is a true reflection of the mission of Assumption and the college’s ability to form thoughtful and caring individuals.

Francesco C. Cesareo, Ph.D., is president of Assumption College in Massachusetts.

UB’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on higher ed.

Francesco C. Cesareo
Francesco C. Cesareo
Francesco C. Cesareo is president of Assumption College in Massachusetts.

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