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Student COVID-19 Emergency Fund

The Illinois Board of Higher Education, the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, and the Illinois Community College Board have come together in partnership with the Southern Illinois University Foundation to create Public University and Community College Student COVID-19 Emergency Fund.

Scope of Need:

  • There are 12 public university campuses serving over 50,000 low-income students and 48 community colleges serving 81,000 low-income students.

  • Data shows that low-income students are already less likely than their wealthier peers to complete their degrees. Approximately 47% of low-income public university students will complete their degrees on time, while 71% of their wealthier peers will.

  • Nearly 15,000 undergraduates at public universities are adult learners, as are more than 92,000 students at community colleges. Studies estimate that over one-quarter have children.

  • Without additional, emergency support many low-income students may not be able to overcome these new challenges resulting from COVID-19 and will drop out of school. We may lose these students forever, or it may be years before they can come back to complete their degrees. The loss them personally and to the Illinois economy would be tragic.

  • Colleges and universities are transitioning to eLearning right now. The emergency needs are most pressing now so that students can weather the transition and successfully continue their studies. While we welcome federal support, we don’t know what restrictions it will have. These students cannot wait for federal funding to arrive.

scope of need

Examples of Needs:

example of needs

A student working two jobs lost both of them due to COVID-19 and is unable to pay rent, and utilities.

A student in quarantine at home awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test and is not eligible for paid time off from his job. He cannot afford food or medication and is concerned about the negative impact on his education.

A student who is a single parent lost her job and has not been able to afford diapers or formula.

A student staying at home due to COVID-19 is limited to the use of an old computer that does not support the software needed for classes. Her father works in the restaurant industry and is concerned about the future of his job.

A non-traditional student who survived on tips in the service industry cannot get unemployment and has $61 dollars to her name. She does not know how she will pay her rent or utility bills and is afraid she will have to drop out of college and return to her home in another state.


  • Our core principles:
    • Get funds to students in need as quickly as possible
    • Provide funds to organizations that already have relationships with students and are in the best position to understand and assess student need
    • Make the system easy to navigate for students and donors
    • Set short response time from student application to funds in-hand
    • Any enrolled part-time or full-time student (undergraduate or graduate) in good standing is eligible
    • Provide as emergency grants that students do not have to pay back (The grants do not impact students’ financial aid awards.)
  • Funds will be allocated equitably, providing resources to the schools based on the concentration and number of low-income students. SIU’s Foundation is acting as a pass- through fiscal agent for this fund.

  • Each public university, community college, and IMSA has an established foundation capable of receiving and quickly distributing the funds. These new funds would supplement any existing emergency grant programs that is insufficient for COVID-19 crisis-related needs.

If you have questions please contact IBHE staff at