After a change in its primary funding mechanism, UTD’s Emergency Support Fund (ESF) is still available for students seeking financial assistance.
Created during the peak of the pandemic in 2020, the grant started within the Division of Student Affairs in collaboration with the Financial Aid Office and the Bursar’s Office. Funds for the ESF originated from institutional funds and federal COVID-19 financial aid programs last fall and spring. However, Associate Dean for Health and Wellness Initiatives Laura Smith said the grant is funded primarily through donations from faculty, staff and UTD community members now that the programs are inactive.
“We created [the Emergency Support Fund] to help students with unanticipated expenses,” Smith said. “We were noticing that there were a lot of students, especially during the pandemic, that were all of a sudden needing new technology now that classes were remote. Or they were having difficulty meeting their rent because their loved one has lost a job due to COVID, or they weren’t able to do something.”
Smith said many of these unforeseen expenses are still at play for students struggling financially, whether from COVID-19 or not, which is why the grant will stay active until funds are exhausted. Students can receive a maximum of $1,000 in funds through the grant and can apply for the grant as many times as needed until they reach the cap. Smith said funds can’t be awarded tangibly in the form of food cards or technology, but students can put the funds received in their Bursar account towards these necessities if they choose.
“It was really designed to be for short-term unforeseen expenses,” Smith said, “So, [it’s] not something that we can award students monthly or regularly, but if they needed textbooks or they needed a laptop or they needed help with rent or with their grocery bill for that month then we can assist with that.”
Students can apply for the fund on the Student Emergency Financial Assistance Program webpage, where they will need to fill out their reason for applying and attach supporting documents such as bills and invoices onto the application. Eligibility criteria for the ESF is less restrictive than federal pandemic relief funds – that is, it’s accessible to international students, doesn’t require students to have a FAFSA on file and doesn’t require that students be enrolled in a certain amount of credit hours. Smith said students simply need to be enrolled at UTD during the semester they apply.