SRU creates short-term financial relief fund for students

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The Student Support Fund provides Slippery Rock University students short-term financial relief up to $100 for a variety of needs including medical emergencies, groceries or a winter coat.

March 21, 2018

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Student success has always been a top priority for Slippery Rock University, whether it's connecting students to academic, health or social services, or making sure students have access to what they need.

But what if that need is something more tangible, say, money for groceries, gas or even a winter coat?

That help is now just an ask away. Through a newly created Student Support Fund, administered by the University's Office of the Associate Provost for Student Success, SRU students can receive short-term financial relief thanks to the generosity of concerned donors.

Fonner Headshot

   FONNER

"We're helping address the basic needs that have a positive impact on (a student's ) education," said Karla Fonner, director of student support. "One of the things we pride ourselves on as an institution is student success and retention. Students want to stay here and do well, so this is another way we can help them. It's a retention tool, but it's also the right thing to do."

Currently students could receive a one-time gift of $100 or less once an emergency is identified, although Fonner indicated that as the fund expands, larger amounts could be awarded. For a student to be eligible for the fund, they must first meet with Fonner, who will assess the situation based on a submitted Care Report, which is a request or referral application her office uses to connect students with resources.

Examples of how a student would benefit from the Student Support Fund include money for groceries while awaiting an application for food stamps to be processed, or a student whose car broke down and they need money to access public transportation.

"We talk through what kinds of resources and what type of plan we can put into place so the student can take care of themselves in the future," said Fonner, noting agencies like a community food cupboard or financial management service, so that when students need groceries again or when the heating bill arrives, they won't need another $100. "There are all kinds of services we have depending on the need. It's very much tailored to the student's need and what they are willing and able to access. That conversation starts in my office."

The idea for the Student Support Fund gained momentum when staffers from SRU's Office of Academic and Student Affairs were planning their annual charity donation as part of their 2017 holiday party.

"We still give to our local charities but we wanted to find a way to help our students in need," said Lisa Weinzetl, compliance manager in planning, resource management and assessment, who helped organize the ASA holiday party. "We work with the students every day and we often see their needs, so creating this fund and being able to help them seemed like the right thing to do."

Alumni will also be able to assist in growing the fund. The Student Support Fund will be a donation option for SRU's Giving Day, March 26, which is organized by the Slippery Rock Foundation, Inc.

"This type of student need resonates strongly with alumni," said Erin Bryer, assistant director of development, annual giving for the Foundation. "They say, 'I remember a student like that,' or 'I was a student like that and someone helped me so I want to do that for somebody else.' They want their money to go directly to students, and, of course, their donations do that but this is really tangible."

In addition to donors choosing to contribute to the Student Support Fund on Giving Day, two anonymous contributions will be made: $2,500 when there are 134 Giving Day donors and another $2,500 when 268 donors are reached. Last year's inaugural Giving Day resulted in 134 donors and organizers have set a goal for 268 this year. Giving Day contributions can be made at the following link: https://raise.sru.edu/give.

For more information about the Student Support Fund, contact Fonner at: 724.738.2121 or karla.fonner@sru.edu.

MEDIA CONTACT: Justin Zackal | 724.738.4854 | justin.zackal@sru.edu