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UNT launches COVID-19 emergency relief fund to help students during pandemic

UNT launches COVID-19 emergency relief fund to help students during pandemic

UNT launches COVID-19 emergency relief fund to help students during pandemic
April 07
09:20 2020

On March 30, the University of North Texas announced students could receive financial assistance through an emergency relief fund accessible through Start Green Stay Green webpage.

The program comes as scores of students have been left unemployed due to the shutting down of thousands of businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In this challenging time, in this pandemic, we’re hearing from students who were worried about their finances,” said Melissa McGuire, the associate vice president for Student Affairs. “With the news, alumni and donors were asking how they can help, so we pulled together university funds, plus donors and it’s the combination of these funds that we’re using.”

Student groups such as SGA have also contributed to the funding, with the total sum reaching into at least six figures.

“Donations have been coming in for a while, though it’s not exact so this is a roundabout figure — I believe we have around $250,000 to offer students,” McGuire said. “To date, we’ve gotten 570 applications so far.”

Though they have acquired around $250,000, McGuire said there were legal restraints to what they could award.

“The biggest hiccup is getting students to understand that we can’t award beyond the cost of attendance,” she said. “For our award, assuming a student has room in their aid package, we are awarding them up to $1,000. Per federal guidelines, we are unable to award any student beyond the cost of attendance, minus their expected family contribution. Federal, state and private loans certified by Student Financial Aid and Scholarships are considered in the formula. In our first round of awards, we awarded 116 students $86,000.”

Federal guidelines require UNT to work with Financial Aid and limit the amount the fund can reward, though money is not the only kind of assistance Stay Green is offering. McGuire did not confirm how many applicants had been denied, either.

“On campus, we have the food pantry, there are other colleges we refer students to … some students need more time to pay any balances due on their tuition and dues, so we’re being flexible instead of setting hard deadlines,” McGuire said.

When asked for comment, an SGA spokesperson said the group was “appreciative of the university’s allocation of funds to be directed towards student relief.”

“As a contributor to the fund, SGA is consistently looking for ways to better represent student interests and needs,” the spokesperson said. “The Stay Green fund allows the opportunity for students to receive assistance in a time of uncertainty.”

Separately, SGA President Yolian Ogbu said SGA is “continuing to look for ways to advocate for students during this time of uncertainty in reference to academics, mental health, and other resources.”

SGA presidential candidate Michael Luecke, whose running mate is Cameron Combs, offered some praise for the program.

“Cameron and I think that it is an amazing resource for students,” Luecke said. “We love seeing the university offer student assistance in any way, shape or form. By offering this resource, this shows the university cares for the well being of our students.”

Fellow SGA presidential candidate Noah Hutchinson, who is running with Bakhtawar Yasir, had similar praise, though he was not without criticism.

“Well I think it’s a tremendous step in the right direction,” Hutchinson said. “By providing a channel of financial assistance directly through the university, I believe it sets a precedent of UNT stepping up to support its students and I look forward to more decision by the administration in the future that continues to put students first. The only criticism I have is just that many students are still unaware of the resource simply because the university doesn’t have as much of a proactive relationship with the student body as it needs to have.”

Applications for the relief fund and for direction to other resources can be found at the bottom of the Start Green Stay Green webpage, Questions can also be sent to

“Students who have been awarded are very thankful,” McGuire said. “We’re just trying to sort through all these because so many have lost employment, their families aren’t able to support them financially and they need help with rent, paying bills, food, dues … they need help, truthfully.”

Featured Image: The UNT Union stands still during a sunny day full of clouds on April 7, 2020. Image by Bertha Angela Smith.

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Will Tarpley

Will Tarpley

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