To help address health disparities among students, Indiana University created the Pandemic Health Disparities Fund (PHDF) with $1M funding provided by the Office of the President. Designed to support the university community's vulnerable members, the fund broadened access to essential health and wellness resources and provided students with financial assistance.
This semester, the PHDF provided financial support to 437 students across IU's campuses to cover necessities and ease financial burdens resulting from the pandemic allowing continued academic progress. Dedicated staff across the IU spectrum, from offices such as financial aid, compliance, and the bursar, worked with the OVPDEMA team to establish the processes for application, review, and distribution of funds, ensuring the initiative's success in a short time impacting the lives of students almost immediately.
Melissa Jones, a senior at IU Northwest, says receiving funds from the PHDF helped her with the financial stress that has occurred due to the pandemic. "I have gotten behind on bills while trying to find affordable daycare for my son so I can go back to work. My job was not essential, so I was unemployed for several weeks. I did not want to push school back because I am a senior, and I am so close to finishing."
Similarly, Jadan Ercoli, a junior at IU Bloomington, also lost a job due to the pandemic and struggled to pay bills and adapt to the new mode of learning. "Not having to worry about paying small bills for the next few months will allow me to focus on my studies and thus encourage me to further engage with the material in a deeper way," Jadan said.
The PHDF also provided students with adequate funding for necessities during this time.
"These funds will help me pay for the internet, allowing me to have a reliable connection as well as help me pay for a new laptop needed to continue with my online courses," Daisy Gutierrez at IUPUI said.
Many students stated that in addition to easing the financial burden, receiving these funds allowed them to focus more on their classes to complete their degrees.
"The impact of the IU Pandemic Health Disparities Fund will help me make my finances more affordable in the time of the pandemic. It relieves me of my stress allowing me to focus on my studies fully. I can study harder now to finish my last year at IU as an undergraduate," Kimberly Torpoco, a senior at IU Bloomington, said.
While the PHDF has changed the lives of hundreds of students, the pandemic continues to affect their financial situations. Those in need of assistance are encouraged to visit their IU campus bursar's office, campus division of student affairs, or Student Central to find the best options moving forward.