Donors’ generosity helps students navigate COVID-19 hardships

August 19, 2020

The UM-Dearborn community comes together to support students affected by the current pandemic.

When junior Demetrios Stathis started his winter semester classes back in January, he never could have imagined what would happen several weeks later or that the term would end the way it did.

Transitioning to all online classes was difficult enough, especially since he has family-care responsibilities at home. But when both of his parents, who help him with tuition, lost their jobs, he really became worried.

“Not having a full-time job and needing to care for several elderly family members spread my time very thin, leaving almost no room for a job during this crisis,” he said.

Support from the UM-Dearborn Immediate Relief COVID-19 made a real difference for Stathis.

“This opportunity was tremendous to me,” he said. “First, it meant I did not have to take on another job in addition to what I am already doing. Secondly, it meant my parents did not have to pitch in money, during a time where they are both unemployed and are caring for two children.”

“This aid will allow me to graduate on time, subsequently with a dual major in accounting and finance,” he added.

Within days of the COVID-19 crisis hitting our community, the Institutional Advancement office at UM-Dearborn put out a call for support. Emails and calls to the UM-Dearborn community apprising them of the situation were met with the care and concern that is characteristic of our alumni, faculty, staff and friends.

“The response to our appeals has been fantastic,” said Vice Chancellor for Institutional Advancement Casandra Ulbrich. “We are so grateful that the community is responding to tremendous need on campus.”

To date, approximately 130 donors, including individuals and businesses, have raised more than $38,000 for immediate relief of students affected by the pandemic. In addition, 170 faculty and staff have donated their parking refunds of $62.50 each to this effort! With these and other immediate relief funds, we have been able to help more than 80 students pay for tuition, books, food, medical, and stay in their homes so far, and will be helping many more as the fall semester begins.

“The pandemic, especially in its early, revelatory stages, made us all feel helpless and as if we had little control over what was happening. I could only imagine how this felt for our students, especially those who already face challenges to getting their education and achieving their ambitions,” said UM-Dearborn Provost Sue Alcock “Offering support seemed something I could do that would be of benefit both for them — and for me!”

CECS alumnus David Segura (’93 B.S.) agreed. “Hearing from the Chancellor and Vice Chancellor about some of the challenges students were facing, I felt it was important for them to know that UM–Dearborn alumni want to be supportive.”

“Also I think back to my time as a student and working hard to make ends meet. I thought about what if I was going to UM-Dearborn during this time and how much harder things may have been,” he added.

Apprehension about college finances is indeed weighing heavily on students’ minds nationwide. Fifty-six percent of college students say they can no longer afford their tuition tab, according to a recent CNBC.com report. Just about half of all undergraduates said they need to figure out a new way to pay for school because of the pandemic’s impact on their financial standing, the report also said.

And on a campus like ours, where 88% of  incoming students receive financial aid and 44% of our students are eligible for federal Pell grants, these sentiments certainly are true.

Fortunately, donor generosity to funds like the UM-Dearborn Immediate Relief COVID-19 is helping students navigate these hardships.

“It means the world to me to have donor support at UM-Dearborn,” said a CASL senior who asked not to be named. “It shows the UM-Dearborn alumni, faculty and staff are proud of this institution and truly care about students’ well-being.

“This award gives me hope that I can finish paying for my studies. It lowers my financial stress and uncertainty, allowing me to pursue my last few classes and finish strong with my degree.”

To give to the UM-Dearborn Immediate Relief COVID-19, visit http://giving.umich.edu/give/336797.

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