UI emergency fund and federal aid to alleviate financial stress for students

University of Iowa student governments will offer an emergency fund for costs related to the pandemic.


Ayrton Breckenridge

University of Iowa Student Government office front as seen on Jan. 26, 2021.

Sabine Martin, News Reporter

Through the University of Iowa and federal government funding, UI students will be able to relieve financial hardships related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In collaboration with Undergraduate Student Government and Graduate and Professional Student Government, the Dean of Students office will disperse an additional $10,000 to the student emergency fund for reimbursements of COVID-19 tests for students whose insurance does not cover the cost.

“Basically, since last March when the pandemic really hit, we just saw a really increased need for basic needs,” GPSG President Mackenzie Graham said.

The UI provides COVID-19 testing for students who have come in close contact with another person who has tested positive and for people with symptoms of COVID-19.

USG President Connor Wooff said student government wanted to be able to financially reimburse UI students for spending money on COVID-19 testing elsewhere.

“The University of Iowa has a lot of students who likely use Test Iowa or Walgreens or Hy-Vee for testing options,” Wooff said. “A lot of those cost up to $150, or the fund can go to the cost of gas money to go to Cedar Rapids to get tested.”

The additional money for COVID-19 reimbursement in the student emergency fund was allocated from the student activity fee and leftover funds, Wooff said.

Nikki Hodous, director of student care for the Dean of Students office, said the emergency fund received over 1,700 requests from students in the spring 2020 semester. In fall 2020, the Office of the Dean of Students received 250 requests.

“After the university went virtual and many students found themselves without jobs and the ability to afford basic expenses. This is significantly higher than the number of requests we received prior to COVID, which was 15 requests or less a year,” she said in an email to The Daily Iowan. 

Graham said that last fall the CARES Act funding was exhausted quickly, still leaving some students in need.

Related: University of Iowa to receive millions in federal aid in the spring semester 

“At the federal level, I think they’re just kind of moving slowly. [The COVID-19 student emergency fund] was kind of put in place, you know, just in case. It’s been so hard for so many people on so many different fronts that there can’t be enough funding,” Graham said.

In a campus-wide email sent Wednesday, the university said $8,085,677 will be given for student aid and $16,899,335 for institutional support from the U.S. Department of Education.

The last stimulus package awarded the UI $8.086 million in relief funding for students and $16,171,354 in total. At least 50 percent of the budget assigned is dedicated to student financial relief.

In an email to the DI, state Board of Regents spokesperson Josh Lehman said all three of the regent universities are awaiting further clarification and guidance on allowable uses of the stimulus package resources.

“The universities are in the planning stages of how to most effectively utilize these funds in accord with the legislation and guidance,” Lehman said to the DI.

Lehman said the funds will help defray expenses associated with COVID-19 including lost revenue, additional expenses, and student support.

In the spring, the federal funding helped over 4,700 eligible students who needed financial aid related to COVID-19, the university said on the CARES Act UI website.

“The institutional portion was used to cover losses associated with canceling study abroad; closing the residence halls, Recreational Services, and the Iowa Memorial Union; and covering technology improvements necessary for virtual instruction,” the university said in the campus-wide email.

Hodous told the DI that student’s families are also navigating a more challenging financial reality. She said the emergency fund is a valuable resource as it helps make a challenge a little less difficult by alleviating some financial concerns.

“I’m impressed. I think The Office for Students Care and Assistance and The Office of The Dean of Students is being very flexible and in tune with student’s needs right now. I think that we don’t always see that, especially at large institutions. So, it’s been really refreshing,” Graham said.