UWF bridges the gap to meet the needs of today’s students
Martha D. Saunders
When I speak with various groups about the needs of college students today, people are often shocked to learn that food insecurity is one of the main challenges for many. Yet in a recent national survey conducted by the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice, researchers found that a majority (over 60%) of students were experiencing food and housing insecurity, and even homelessness. , at some point in their college career. . This kind of stress can have huge negative effects on psychological health and academic success. As a result, many talented students fail to achieve their educational and professional goals.
September has been designated National Hunger Relief Month by Feeding America since 2008 as a national campaign to get involved in the hunger crisis affecting the country. This is a good opportunity to reflect on the many ways UWF helps our students when they need a helping hand.
For example, I’m proud of the work of Argo Pantry, a program that supports students currently enrolled at UWF with free, healthy food and basic personal care items. The Pantry offers non-perishable foods, personal care items, laundry detergent, and school supplies for those in need, allowing students to focus on their academic goals and progress toward their graduation. graduation without worrying about food insecurities. You can get involved in our efforts to end food insecurity among UWF students by visiting uwf.edu/argopantry.
Financial aid is another key to ensuring access to higher education. In the past academic year, the University has awarded more than $ 110 million in UWF grants, scholarships and loans. The Argo 30 Guarantee Program is our commitment to cover tuition and fees not covered by other grants or scholarships for low income, Pell Grant-eligible Florida students who are preparing for their first undergraduate degree.
In 2019, the University established the Argo Spirit Scholarship – a comprehensive and competitive scholarship awarded to first-time freshmen at the university who have demonstrated strength of character or âArgo Spiritâ. Their stories involve overcoming obstacles, fighting for something big, and making an impact in high school. These are the students with great potential to become successful future leaders, and we believe in rewarding their accomplishments to fuel their future success, with a UWF education as a foundation.
During this fall semester, UWF began distributing $ 11.6 million in student aid funds as part of the postgraduate graduate Emergency Aid Fund for Higher Education, known under the name of HEERF. Earlier in the spring of 2021, the University provided 2,837 students with emergency student aid totaling $ 3.4 million with HEERF I. UWF disbursed an additional $ 3.4 million in June with the funds. emergency aid to HEERF II students, helping 4,034 students. The University also used nearly $ 883,000 of the Institutional Assistance portion of the funds to settle the outstanding balances of 1,033 students.
These financial aid grants can be used by enrolled students for any component of their tuition or for emergency costs related to the pandemic, such as tuition, food, housing, child care. children or health care, including mental health care. Students determine how they use their emergency financial aid grant within the permitted uses. The funds have played a vital role in our efforts to support students during an unprecedented global pandemic.
Over the coming year, I look forward to working with campus, community and government leaders to expand the programs and ensure that the basic needs of all students are met.
Martha D. Saunders is president of the University of West Florida.