COVID-19 has really affected students across the nation, from financial loss to mental health, students are finding ways to cope. College students were returning back to campus or started their courses online with no help from their schools. DePaul University made it its mission to help its students this upcoming winter quarter with their Now We Must: The Campaign. DePaul University is raising $60 million this academic year. This campaign is aiding students in five areas: mental health, scholarship, technology, emergency funds, and internships. I spoke with Sasha Gerritson the DePaul alum and trustee on the Now We Must: The Campaign to discuss in detail each area.
A global pandemic is something students, including myself, were not expecting. There is no right way to handle COVID-19. Students have to deal with mental health issues, financial insecurities, school, and a global pandemic all at once. DePaul University is including mental wellness as part of the campaign. Online programs, personal outreach, and health professionals are available all the time for students. DePaul's University Counseling Services and Office of Health Promotion and Wellness are aiding students with individual support, health education, and awareness. The individual support includes counseling sessions, wellness coaching, individual support, advocacy for substance abuse, and sexual and relationship violence support. Health education is focused on providing students with courses that help students manage their stress and create self-care habits. Take Care DePaul is an awareness campaign to foster a healthy and safe campus. “We’re trying to make more counselors available, we're trying to make more support systems available so things like groups that people can join virtually via Zoom, there’s one on one counseling, addiction specialists,” said Gerritson.
“39% percent of college students nationwide experience a significant mental health issue.” This area of the campaign is vital to the success of students completing the quarter or continuing with their studies. I struggled with anxiety due to the pandemic and having to deal with grief. I wish I had reached out to a counselor to help with my mental health issues.
The scholarship funds are open to all students, which includes undergraduate, graduate, part-time, and full-time students. Students need to apply for this scholarship through the financial aid office at DePaul University, where they will receive need-based help. The press release for this campaign stated that “For the 2020-21 academic year, DePaul has increased its financial aid pool nearly 5.1% over the previous year to $266.4 million. Some 32% of full-time undergrads receive Pell Grants, which demonstrate the highest level of financial need, and 83% of incoming freshmen receive scholarship support. While DePaul did not increase tuition for the 2020-21 academic year, some students report struggling to make ends meet.”
“The reason why we put this on the campaign and just FYI before we started the campaign we talked to a lot of students. Tell us what your needs are. Tell us what your levels of need include. One of the biggest things students said to us was access to technology. I don’t necessarily have the right WIFI at my house. I don’t necessarily have an extra laptop. I don’t necessarily have an iPad to do the work.” This feedback resulted in DePaul including technology in one of the areas to help students be successful in the 2020-21 school term. Students would have to apply through The Genius Squad or Technology Support Center and explain what their specific need is for the school term. Statistics from Spring 2020 quarter showed that “60% of DePaul’s undergraduate students say they experienced technology issues that impeded their performance in classes during spring 2020,” and “the percentage of DePaul students who worried about “accessing and using the technology needed” for remote learning during spring 2020 was highest among DePaul’s Black (47%) and Latinx (47%) students compared to white (40%) and Asian students (30%).”
The Student Emergency Assistance Fund or (SEAF) takes care of housing, food, medical expenses, medical expenses, and costs of daily living. “During the spring term alone, DePaul saw 852 requests and disbursed over $570,000 to 595 individual students.”
During this time of crisis, many companies are not offering opportunities and those that are offering internships are usually remote or without compensation. DePaul is offering Career Readiness and Experience Fund. Some of the areas of this fund include Internship Plus, Career Treks, Professional Development, and Networking, Career Advancement, or considering a student for a professional opportunity.
As a recent graduate, finding a paid internship or professional opportunity is rare. There are internships that are unpaid which won’t help students who are all already facing financial issues. This fund is aiding these students in success.
COVID-19 has proven a challenge for students in all aspects, but DePaul hopes to provide relief with the Now We Must: The Campaign.