Unforeseen Circumstances

8 June 2020

Carleton is taking care of our students, and our alumni are taking care of Carleton through the Alumni Annual Fund.

As soon as President Steven Poskanzer sent an email in early March to alert the faculty, the staff, and students that an extended spring break would be followed by four weeks of virtual learning, responses—including those excerpted at right—began to pour in to the dean of students’ office. (A secondary email, sent in early April, informed recipients that online classes would last all term and both Commencement and Reunion would be postponed.)

Some students reported being unable to fly home due to international travel restrictions; many lost their spring break and part-time jobs, which were vital for paying for books, food, and medicine; and some expressed worries about their immunocompromised parents.

The dean’s office immediately turned to the Student Assistance Fund, which derives its funding from support donated to the Alumni Annual Fund (AAF). Fueled by the generosity of alumni, parents, and friends of the college, the AAF already supports college priorities such as financial aid. When the pandemic upended spring term, four new priorities emerged.

“The Alumni Annual Fund allows us to pivot unexpectedly and immediately apply resources where they are needed most,” says Nicole Schroeder, director of the AAF. “It’s a powerful resource that supports a distinctly Carleton experience for all students and lays the foundation for a lifelong connection to the college.”

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1. Travel

Buying a ticket on such short notice is hard due to high prices. I found a bus ticket that is cheaper than the flights, but due to jobs being at stake, money is a big issue. If possible, I would gladly appreciate any assistance in purchasing a way to get home to my family.

The majority of students traveled home on a bus or with family. Between absorbing costs for nonrefundable flights and scrambling to find ways to pay for plane tickets, however, some Carls struggled to find a way off campus. Thanks to the annual fund, the college was able to assist 30 students with one-way flights to their preferred destination, both domestically and internationally; baggage costs and hotel stays were also covered. A handful of requests for gas and vehicle maintenance were also honored.

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2. Housing & Food

My mother was laid off because of the lockdown…. She is undocumented, which makes it difficult for her to apply for unemployment. We are currently facing food uncertainty, and being home has added an extra cost to my family.

As of May, only 220 students who could not go home for a variety of reasons remained on campus. They were provided meal cards that were also usable during spring break. Of the students who departed, some found financial challenges, including food and housing insecurity at home. The college provided them a daily stipend to help defer costs. Those who didn’t return after the break were given a credit for spring room and board, which amounts to about $5,000 per person.

3. Technology

My family does not have internet (WiFi) installed at home because we cannot afford it.

Distance learning only works if students have reliable internet access. Realizing this would be a barrier for many of our students, Carleton’s Information Technology Services team mailed packages to students across the country. Thirty-one students received iMacs, fifteen students received a wireless hotspot, and nineteen students who remained on campus picked up computers from Carleton’s labs to use in their rooms.

The annual fund helped cover costs for ITS to provide faculty and staff members with laptops, iPads, webcams, tripods, and headsets. Carleton made its Zoom Pro license available to students, which allowed them to host sessions longer than 40 minutes, use breakout rooms, and record sessions.

4. Health

Without my on-campus job, I no longer have access to financial security as I was using my campus-job income to pay for textbooks, and pay for bills outside of Carleton (currently I am paying for medication that I am receiving for my asthma as I am fearful that this may put me at a further risk of COVID-19).

The Student Health Health Care Coalition provides telehealth services for all Carls, no matter where they’re living during spring term. The Student Assistance Fund, with support from the AAF, has been made available to fulfill emergency requests for prescriptions, in-person medical care, and mental health services.