WU's Emergency Fund in high demand, new website with financial security resources in development
Art by Olivia Frenkel.
Last spring semester, an email was sent to Willamette students detailing the University’s Emergency Fund as a financial resource for students. Since the email was sent out, there have been over 200 requests for funds, CARE and Conduct Case Manager Tori Ruiz said over email. Students have been approved grants for needs such as personal safety (such as changing a lock), emergency rent, utilities and medications.
Ruiz said that most requests are granted, but there are conditions, “If the funds are not going to help the student in some way that can be tied to academics, the funds won’t be disbursed.” This made the fund a potential resource for students who might have needed help getting off campus in Spring as “getting them home—or to a safe place off campus—so they could study remotely in a familiar location was deemed an academic necessity.”
By contrast, a student requesting funds to visit a friend would be denied. The funds also may not be used for tuition. Students will not be granted money from the fund if they have money from the Financial Aid office that they have not used.
Ruiz said that she and her team make clear to students that the fund is limited, “For example, folks can have two payments two separate times—like $200 one time and $300 another—but the total distribution may not exceed $500, unless there are extenuating circumstances.” Ruiz has started the practice of having talks with students about their situation. If the students have long term financial problems, Ruiz says that she can refer them to the Financial Aid Office for a chance at reworking their package.
The fund existed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but was not online until Spring 2020, just in time for an influx of requests. In response to concerns that not enough students were aware of resources like the Emergency Fund, Ruiz says that they are developing a website of on-and-off campus resources to help students achieve financial security, “like a one stop shop for students’ non-academic needs.”