Student Assistance Fund Distributes Grants to More Than 1,000 Students

Allen Building in fall

A fund set up to assist Duke students with unexpected expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic distributed grants totaling almost $1.5 million to 1,169 students as of April 30. Additional requests are being reviewed and a second round of grant applications will soon be opened.

The Duke Student Assistance Fund (DSAF) was one of three funds established by the university in the wake of the pandemic. Launched with an initial university commitment of $4 million, DSAF was an acknowledgment that the campus closure would result in unexpected short-term financial need for some students.

“We know students are facing tremendous disruption as a result of the pandemic,” said Executive Vice Provost Jennifer Francis, who is overseeing the review and approval of the grants. “The goal of this fund is to help alleviate the immediate financial burden of these unexpected expenses so students can complete their academic work.”

To the Duke students who received the grants, the funds were essential. Several wrote Francis and her team to express how the grants offered financial relief and alleviated stress for themselves and their families.  “I am deeply grateful to receive this,” wrote one student, “as it will be greatly helpful during this strange, difficult and uncertain time.”

Student requests for help included expenses for housing, food, travel, technology and medical bills. The requests came in from graduate and professional students and undergraduates. For the first round of grants, 1539 students submitted complete applications, as of April 30. Of these 1169 had been approved and 53 denied. The rest remained under review.

In addition, Duke distributed 68 loaner laptops to meet student technology needs.

Domestic students submitted 60 percent of the applications with the rest coming from international students.

According to data from the DSAF, housing expenses accounted for slightly more than half of the funds requested in the first round of applications with food representing nearly a quarter of the distributions. The average grant size was $1,281.

More applications are coming in and being reviewed on an ongoing basis. Francis said this first round of grants will cover expenses continuing through the end of June, and that additional round of grants covering eligible expenses beyond then will be announced later this month.