The HOPE Crisis Fund provides students at San Francisco State University who are experiencing crisis beyond their control with emergency funding that meets their immediate needs and allows them to continue their studies and graduate. In response to COVID-19, the HOPE Crisis Fund is now focused on giving students in need support to complete the current semester. The Fund has received an influx of requests for emergency financial assistance since the crisis began and is in need of additional funding to sufficiently respond to student requests.
Once students apply for assistance from the HOPE Crisis Fund, Chris Trudell, First-Year Experience Manager in the Division of Student Life counsels students on a one-on-one basis, learning about the student’s needs and ascertaining if and how the Fund can help them. Although funds are limited, the HOPE Crisis Fund tries to respond to as many students as possible. In keeping with the University’s ethic of service, students who receive money from the Fund are requested to repay it when they are able. This money is then used to support other students in the future.
Requests for funding to the HOPE Crisis Fund range in amount, and awards depend on available funding. Each case is different and is addressed on a one-to-one basis by Chris. Often, he tries to help students problem-solve their financial situations, sometimes addressing larger needs with fundable options that set students up for success. An example of this is awarding a student money to buy a computer or uniform that will allow them to work at a new job. “That award might only total a few hundred dollars, but that few hundred dollars can really propel them to get a job and be able to earn the funds to continue going to school,” says Chris.
“I do think that our requests, especially over the last two or three weeks have shifted towards real economic disparity related to COVID-19,” says Pam Sue, Interim Associate Dean of Students, whose office oversees the HOPE Crisis Fund.
“Many students have lost their jobs, and they’re trying to figure out what they will do for rent, because they’re living paycheck to paycheck, and now they have no paycheck.” -Pam Su, Interim Associate Dean of Students
Another surge in requests to the HOPE Crisis Fund in recent weeks has been from international students, specifically from China. Some of these students have parents who worked in factories that closed down, suddenly leaving their families with no income. International students are not eligible for financial aid, and many of them have expressed concern to Chris that they will not be able to afford to return to SF State next semester. “I think we’re going to see a spike in requests as we get closer to the end of the semester,” he says. “The future is unknown for these students. They are sharing that their families don’t have the means for them to complete the semester, and I am concerned that they will need support to get back home.”
The HOPE Crisis Fund was created with initial funding from San Francisco State’s UCorp, an auxiliary organization that aims to provide resources to the University as a means to enrich the SF State experience for students, faculty, and staff. Today, UCorp’s support of the HOPE Crisis Fund is bolstered by contributions from private donors. The need for private donations has greatly increased since the University suspended face-to-face classes on March 9th.
“This is just such a different crisis, with different requests than what we normally see,” continues Pam. “I wish that we did have more funds. If we could help students with two months of rent, just to at least get them to the end of the semester and to graduation, hopefully the crisis will become settled and they can go back to work again. Just to give them some peace of mind to get to the end of the semester, I wish we could help them with that.”