College of Engineering students at Oregon State University who are beset by financial woes caused by the COVID-19 health emergency are getting fast and crucial relief from the college’s Student Emergency Fund.
The fund is part of the Beavers Care Initiative, which was created in partnership by the OSU Foundation and the university to raise money to help students meet their basic needs and stay on track to graduate.
According to the OSU Foundation, about a third of OSU students have suffered financially because of COVID-19. Overall, more than 900 donors have given over $500,000 to the Beavers Care Initiative.
“These funds are critically important to students, and we sincerely appreciate all of the generous and wonderful donors,” said Wade Marcum, Henry W. and Janice J. Schuette Professor in Nuclear Science and Engineering and interim associate dean for undergraduate programs. “But as the crisis continues, more students will encounter financial difficulties, so we continue to seek support.”
More than 500 engineering students have applied for assistance, according to Marcum, who emphasized that applications are continually being evaluated. “Selections are based on available funding and the level of student need,” he said. “So a student who submitted an application but hasn’t been selected yet may very well be selected in subsequent rounds of funding. We’ll help students as long as this crisis continues and as long as funds are available.”
To date, 206 engineering students have received nearly $129,000 from the emergency fund. Keith Stevens is among those who are getting aid. Since the computer science major lost his job, he’s struggled to pay for necessities like rent, car insurance, and sometimes food.
“The emergency funds will go directly to my rent and to help me eat,” he said. “I am extremely thankful, as they allow me to stay in my apartment without being worried about losing it over spring term. I hope that once I am deep into my career, I would be able to help people the same way that they’re helping us now.”
Brandon Van Heeswyk, a mechanical engineering major, also faced sudden unemployment — plus taking over teaching duties for his daughter in grade school.
“We have run short of food and other essentials and have had to be creative about how and when bills get paid,” he said. “Now, I’ll be able to spend less time worrying about lost income and accumulating debt and more time on my education and becoming the best fourth-grade instructor I can be.”
Without the generosity of people who have contributed to Beavers Care, Van Heeswyk added, many more students would be struggling to meet their daily needs while trying to focus on their studies. “Donations to initiatives like this allow us to persevere so that we, too, may give back to our community,” he said.
Bioengineering major Victoria Bennette cannot work outside her home because her mother, whom she lives with, has a compromised immune system and is highly vulnerable to infections. “So I cannot bring in an income to support myself,” Bennette said. “The emergency funds will allow me to pay some of my tuition that my scholarships and grants did not cover, and I may also be able to stock up on some basic necessities to help avoid leaving the house and putting my mother and me at risk. This funding is lifesaving for a lot of low-income, struggling families like mine.”
Manjunath Kadalli, a graduate student in construction engineering management, is dealing with the distress of prolonged separation from his family in India on top of financial hardship.
“There are many stranded students who would want to be home right now but aren’t able to go,” Kadalli said, adding that he has been forced to tap into his reserves and use credit cards to pay for food, rent, and utilities. “The emergency funds will help us to survive until a solution is found.”
To make a contribution for engineering students, please visit Beavers Care. Oregon State University and OSU Foundation employees can make a gift via payroll deduction and specify that it go to the College of Engineering Student Emergency Fund.
— Steve Frandzel