As COVID-19 continues to spread, a number of universities across the Maritimes have established a student relief fund to help students address financial burdens caused by the pandemic.
On April 1, Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax announced the establishment of a fund to provide emergency bursaries to help impacted students cover costs associated with housing, food, tuition, technology, mental health services and transportation.
According to the university, the fund will also be used to set up bursaries and awards for the fall term so that students can return to the classroom and new students can come to MSVU.
“Right now, our students need us more than ever,” said Dr. Mary Bluechardt, MSVU President and Vice-Chancellor and fund founder in a press release.
“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our students have lost their campus community for an unknown amount of time and are facing great challenges in their educational journey. The challenges are even more significant for those who already face financial insecurity,” she added.
Bluechardt also said that donation to the fund can be made online or phone to help students financially.
Halifax’s Saint Mary’s University has also been working to help its students impacted by the pandemic.
“Saint Mary’s University recognizes the financial impact of COVID-19 on our current and future students,” said Cale Loney, SMU’s spokesperson, in an e-mail to Global News on April 1.
“We have reached out to students to make them aware of emergency financial supports at the university, as well as making sure that students are aware of government support that is available to individuals and families.”
Loney said that the university has a small number of Emergency Relief Bursary Funds that it is drawing on to support students today.
“Efforts are underway within the university and through engaging our alumni and donors to add to these funds,” he said.
In March, the university also provided financial relief through residence and meal plan refunds along with waiving fees and other charges to students where possible.
On the other hand, Dalhousie University has provided emergency bursary funding to over 400 students experiencing unexpected and unmanageable costs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The COVID-19 emergency bursary funding is over and above the university’s regular bursary program. It is intended to help assist students with immediate, urgent, out of pocket costs resulting from COVID-19, but not ongoing or longer-term costs,” said Janet Bryson, the university’s spokesperson, in an e-mail to Global.
According to Bryson, the majority of students who received bursaries to date are those who were required to leave residence early and international students who urgently needed to travel home or could not return home due to travel restrictions.
“The emergency bursary program will shift this week to focus on supporting international students living in Nova Scotia who cannot currently return home and who are experiencing ongoing need,” Bryson said.
In New Brunswick, the same effort has been made by Université de Moncton and the University of New Brunswick to help their students.
Last week, the Université de Moncton announced the creation of an emergency fund to assist students affected by the COVID-19 pandemic on all three of its campuses.
“It is important to offer support and show our solidarity with the most vulnerable members of our student community,” stated Jacques Paul Couturier, interim president and vice-chancellor of the Université de Moncton.
“Many of our students are directly affected by the current crisis and experiencing its negative impact. Some have lost jobs or had to abandon paid internships, while others have been unable to return home due to the closure of certain international borders.”
Couturier is also encouraging members of the university community, alumni and the general public to show their support for students facing financial challenges by donating to the COVID-19 emergency fund.
UNB’s student relief fund has also been established to assist all students currently registered in the winter 2020 term of study.
“We will fund travel costs due to displacement as well as monthly living costs due to loss of employment, childcare,” stated the university on their websites.
UNB also noted that the amount a student can receive will be based on the type of costs requiring support up to a maximum of $1,000.00.
As of Tuesday, there has been more than 17,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 across Canada, with a total of 375 deaths.
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.
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