CUNY Starts Emergency Relief Fund for Students With $3.25 Million in Seed Money

The City University of New York (CUNY), the nation’s largest urban public university, has received $3.25 million in seed money to start an emergency relief fund for students facing financial hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The institution’s goal is to raise $10 million over the next several months.

The university-wide initiative aims to provide students in need with $500 in emergency grants. These grants will be disbursed to students starting the week of April 20, the university said in a statement. The recipients will be chosen by lottery from a group of about 14,000 students who have been identified as meeting financial-need and academic criteria.

“The coronavirus pandemic is having a devastating economic impact on many of our students, and this unprecedented emergency fund will provide rapid-response financial support to those who need it most,” said CUNY chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez in the statement.

The James and Judith K. Dimon Foundation and the Carroll and Milton Petrie Foundation have each provided initial gifts of $1 million to establish the fund, called the Chancellor’s Emergency Relief Fund. Additional support has come from other corporate and philanthropic donors and CUNY is also seeking donations that would go directly to students. As the fund grows, the university will provide more students with grants.

CUNY serves 275,000 degree-seeking students whose median household income is about $40,000 a year, with nearly 40% from families earning less than $20,000.

“Almost half of our students work while in school, and many now find their jobs and incomes eliminated, drastically reduced or otherwise imperiled — exacerbating financial pressures and challenges including food and housing insecurity and lack of access to health care,” CUNY said.