COVID-19 has presented a challenge unlike anything the University of Waterloo has faced in its history. Campus life has been disrupted, creating uncertainty in students’ lives through the loss of part-time jobs and co-op work terms, travel restrictions, and the struggle to meet unexpected expenses related to housing, food and technology to support online learning. 

As personal stories of hardship began to surface, the Waterloo community reached out to ask how they could help. In response, the University has created the Student Emergency Support Fund to provide short-term financial help with immediate, unexpected expenses of both an academic and non-academic nature.

“From the outset of this pandemic, our number one priority has been the safety and wellbeing of our students,” said Waterloo president and vice-chancellor, Feridun Hamdullahpur. “Waterloo has taken the steps to continue a quality learning experience for our students so they can complete their education. This new normal of physical distancing means some of our students are facing financial challenges. These students need our collective support during this difficult time.”

Building on the leadership of the Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association (WUSA) in advocating for students affected by COVID-19, campus leaders partnered with them to create a fund that would support all students: undergraduate, graduate, international, domestic, full-time and part-time, for both their academic and non-academic needs. The fund was launched by WUSA with a $30,000 investment from its Student Life Endowment Fund. This generous contribution will be matched by the University to honour the commitment and investment student leaders have shown in supporting our students at this critical time. University leaders are working through the logistics, and students will be able to apply soon.

That’s welcome news for students like Mellisa (Class of ’23), who doesn’t know how she’s going to pay for rent after her co-op work term placement was cancelled because of COVID-19. 

“We have a responsibility to prepare our young trailblazers to solve the problems of the world, and this initiative is about ensuring their education is not sidelined,” said Feridun. “We don’t yet know what the full impact of the pandemic will mean for students in the weeks and months to come, but our community has always come together in times of need, responding with speed, courage and generosity. This crisis will be no exception.”