Fund could help students facing hard times

James Vaughn

Student Government members want to create ‘student hardship fund’

Students who face hardships during their studies at USI may soon have the Student Government Association (SGA) to lean on for financial support.

Travis Dickison, housing representative and sophomore health administration major, proposed that a Student Hardship Fund be initiated by SGA during the Feb. 14 SGA meeting.

The resolution stated that “the student body should unite as a community to help each other in our times of need with support.”

Hardships include medical bills, severe emotional trauma, the death of a family member or a close friend, and travel expenses. The fund would also grant families financial support if there is a death of a student.

Dickison got the idea from his job at Home Depot, where they offer the Homer Fund to employees who face hardships. For example, one employee was Swedish, and the Homer Fund paid for his trip to Sweden to attend his mother’s funeral.

Though the proposed Student Hardship Fund would be very similar to the Homer Fund, the Homer Fund is fully funded by the employees. The Student Hardship Fund would not be fully funded by students at first, though Dickison said he would like it to eventually be fully funded by student donations.

“It will fail very quickly if I rely on student donations so early in the process, before students can see the usefulness of the fund,” Dickison said.

He said he hopes SGA will provide the initial startup money.

The grants would be awarded by a committee consisting of eight students – four from SGA and four from other student organizations – and four faculty members or administrators.

“Confidentiality will be important to the process,” the resolution states.

Dickison said the names of students who needed the assistance would not be presented to the committee.  An administrator who isn’t on the committee and the business office would most likely be the only people who would see the names of the students receiving the grants.

As for the amount of grants awarded, Dickison said he has yet to come up with a number.

“I don’t think we will,” he said. “Everything will have to be on a case-by-case basis.”

He sees the most common request being for travel expenses, which would probably be around $50 a person. But another common request could be for medical bills, which could run upwards of $3,000.

Senior psychology major Naomi Killham said it’s a wonderful proposal as long as there is a way to monitor how funding is spent.

“If there was a medical emergency or death in the family, the cost in gas alone is more than most college students have on hand at any given time,” Killham said. “I think there will always be a need for this type of thing.”

Something like this could have helped her out when she needed to drive six hours home in the past.

Both of her parents have been hospitalized. Her sibling overdosed and was in bad shape. There have been funerals she needed to attend.

“There have been good things as well, like graduations, military send offs, stuff like that,” Killham said. “I think if this was something that was put into place, well-organized and advertised well, tons of students would use it.”

Freshman nursing major Kerrick Gerst said she decided to sponsor the resolution because she thinks it would be very beneficial to the student population, she said.

“I feel pretty confident in the proposal,” Gerst said. “There are a few bumps that Travis and I will have to work out before it can be approved. After all of that, though, I think that it will have a strong footing and will get approved.”

The Fund would be advertised well, she said.

“I am sure that the word about it will spread because of the emotional pull that students will feel from it,” Gerst said.

The proposal was tabled, or postponed to be discussed, at the Feb. 14 General Assembly meeting.