The university’s emergency support fund has already had an active life in the five years since its creation.
According to Sara Whittaker, the assistant vice president for communications and marketing at the LSU Foundation, the fund was created with what remained of the university’s former disaster relief fund in the wake of the 2016 flooding in Baton Rouge.
“We realized [that] having an emergency fund was really more suitable to fit students' needs,” Whittaker explained.
So, the student emergency support fund was born. Since its inception, Baton Rouge has experienced catastrophic flooding, a global pandemic, persistent summer storms and now one of the worst storms to hit the state since 1850.
The university's Vice President for Student Affairs Jeremiah Shinn said last year $106,938 was awarded to 160 students, for an average award of $668.36 each. The maximum award amount from the fund is $750.
That’s 160 students who now have additional support to continue their degree here at LSU. 160 students who, if not for a simple form through the Division of Student Affairs, might not have qualified for any other form of aid.
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Congress tucked the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund into the CARES act, a provision that provided direct aid to students for the first time in the pandemic.
Unfortunately, the fund required a valid Free Application for Free Student Aid (FAFSA), thus excluding the international students who are not eligible for federal aid.
“Philanthropy has got to be the dot fillers. We find those areas that are overlooked or simply not known of,” said John Davies, president of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation.
The student emergency support fund helped to fill that dot for international students.
Philanthropy did its job.
However, there remain countless other "dots" to fill here at the university.
After it became clear that Hurricane Ida would ravage the state, the LSU Foundation put out a call to its board of directors: donate generously to the student emergency support fund.
They responded by raising $145,000 in short order, raising more in a span of days than was given out in the entirety of this last academic year, according to Whittaker. The 28-member board is made up largely of LSU alumni.
These members are, literally, forever LSU. We all need to join them.
“Nonprofits are increasingly going to be a part of ensuring our communities don’t retrograde, but get better," said Davies.
Don’t let our LSU community retrograde. Donate to the student emergency support fund today to help fill in those dots that will inevitably be missed.
Charlie Stephens is a 20-year-old political communication junior from Baton Rouge.