DUNMORE – When the COVID-19 pandemic hit earlier this semester, Penn State Scranton found itself not only dealing with the challenges of switching to remote delivery of classes and services, but also an increase in student need.
To help address those needs, the campus’ Student Services and Engagement office has been assisting students with applications for funding via the Student Affairs Care and Advocacy Office at University Park. In addition, the campus food pantry is making adjustments to better provide for students engaged in remote learning for the remainder of the spring semester.
As of last month, eight students have reached out with requests for assistance, according to Director of Student Services and Engagement Brad Kovaleski. Six students have been granted funds, one received a loaner laptop computer from the Information Technology (IT) department and the other simply needed some guidance and resources, Kovaleski said.
“We’ve had students who have been furloughed or had their hours cut due to the pandemic. They have applied for unemployment, but the process is taking more time due to the increased number of individuals applying,” Kovaleski said. “Right now, we are working with the University Park process to provide funds to pay for bills for their basic needs. Funds are going to things like mortgages and rent, heat, internet for class access, etc.”
“Anna Barone from Student Care and Advocacy has been doing an amazing job of facilitating the process and expediting it as best we can to ensure students in need are able to stay in their homes and access their classes,” Kovaleski continued. “We are doing what we can within policy to support the students, and they have been so very appreciative for any penny that can be shared with them.”
Campus Nurse Jill Thoman converted the food pantry into a remote operation, in order to be able to provide students in need with groceries or gift cards on an as-needed basis. She’s been in touch with regular pantry users and has delivered food and hygiene supplies to students residing at The Commons at University Drive apartment complex.
“We are working on adapting our former process to a new process that was already in place at Penn State York and Penn State Greater Allegheny,” said Kovaleski, noting the campus is preparing for an increase in food requests during the coming weeks.
For more information on Student Services’ efforts, contact Kovaleski at 570-963-2690 or [email protected]. And, for further information on the Penn State Student Care & Advocacy Student Emergency Fund, visit https://studentaffairs.psu.edu/support-safety-conduct/student-support-services/financial-concerns.
Student Hardship Fund
Meanwhile, the campus continues to accept charitable contributions for its Student Hardship Fund, as needs are expected rise as the pandemic continues.
The fund provides monetary assistance to students experiencing financial and/or personal difficulties that hinder their ability to pay for their education. Awards are dispersed at the discretion of the chancellor in consultation with student aid officers, and recipients are not required to repay the funds.
For more information on how to contribute to the Student Hardship Fund, contact Director of Development Christine Ostroski at 570-963-2536 or [email protected].
The campus' financial aid office has not received many calls yet from students regarding financial hardship issues. However, that’s likely to change in the coming months, and it is not yet known how much funding the University will receive from the federal government’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
Students needing aid should visit the government website, studentaid.gov/announcements-events/coronavirus, to keep up to date on federal changes in response to the coronavirus. And, students can still use the FAFSA website, www.fafsa.ed.gov, to apply for financial aid, although the site appears to be redirecting users to studentaid.gov.
For more information regarding financial aid issues, contact the campus' admissions department at [email protected].