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An in-depth look at our region's emerging economic, social, political and cultural identity.

Needs Outstrip Giving As UNCC Students Seek Help With Food And Housing Costs

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UNC Charlotte saw a quick and generous response when it launched an emergency fund for students who lost their dorm rooms and meal plans when the university abruptly closed because of the coronavirus. But the need quickly outstripped those donations. 

A week after starting its emergency relief fund for students, UNCC had almost $264,000 in hand, including a $100,000 gift from two alumni.

But as of Monday afternoon, the university had more than $400,000 in applications from students in need, according to Beth Crigler, associate vice chancellor for development.

"I don’t know that the general public necessarily understands the impact on students," she said. "I think they might think, well, that they’re just going home to their parents."

Some could do that when the UNC system shut down for the rest of the school year, closing dorms and dining halls and forcing students to find a place to finish courses online.

But as more than 900 applications for aid poured in, UNCC also heard about international students who couldn’t get home and single parents who are working and going to school.

"One of them was 'I unexpectedly had to move out and find a place to stay. Now I’ve lost my job, not sure how I’m getting through this and I’m a foster child so I don’t have family to support me,' " Crigler said.

Student applications also talked about whole extended families losing income as stay-at-home orders have forced businesses to close or cut employee hours. UNCC has nearly 30,000 students, and about 40% of them have parents who didn’t go to college, Crigler says.

"A lot of them had hospitality-type jobs that they no longer have, or they were you know, working part time in other retail situations, and now are saying they don’t know how they’re going to pay their rent, they don’t know how they’re going to have food," she said.

The emergency fund provides up to $500 per student as a one-time payment to cover essentials during the crisis. Crigler says the university is verifying circumstances using financial aid data on file.

Officials also understand that $500 won’t be enough if universities and the economy remains shut down for weeks or months. The UNC system just approved partial room-and-board refunds, but it’s not clear how soon those will come through. For now, UNCC is referring students in need to other campus resources, such as a food pantry that remains open, and to aid groups in the Charlotte area.

Crigler says donations are continuing to come in, but so are applications for assistance. Click here for more information about UNCC relief efforts.

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