By Jessica Easthope
The ongoing pandemic has thrown college students navigating their way into adulthood off-track without warning.
“It was right in the middle of the semester,” said Alliyah Speight, a sophomore at St. Francis College in Brooklyn Heights. “I was trying to get my grades together, get my classes together.”
The St. Francis College sophomore had a devastating year. Her problems were bigger than money.
“Back in April, I lost my father due to COVID and that was my only parent, because I lost my mother at 11 years old, so things have been pretty hard for me,” Alliyah said. “It was a week before my 19th birthday that I lost him.”
Losing her father changed everything including how she would pay tuition. Alliyah did what many students are afraid to do: she asked her school for help. She’s now one of nearly 300 recipients of aid from The Terrier For Terrier Relief Fund.
“We know that Alliyah was affected very hard during the pandemic,” said Assistant Vice President for Enrollment Management, Robert Oliva. “When she applied for The Terrier For Terrier Relief Fund, we wanted to assist her in a very special way.”
St. Francis College helped Alliyah continue her Catholic education and also provided financial aid from The Cares Act to more than 1,300 students.
“As a mission driven institution, the St. Francis College community rallies around those who need it most,” said Robert.
St. Francis has its own way of helping out but in April 2020 “Swiftstudent” came onto the scene. Swiftstudent is a free online tool that helps students ask their colleges for additional financial aid.
“It’s really changing students’ lives and enabling them to get the financial aid they need in many cases to complete college or at least stay in college,” said Abigail Seldin, a producer from Swiftstudent.
The need is great. A survey by Oneclass shows 56% of college freshmen and sophomores say they can no longer afford tuition because of COVID-19.
“Students are tremendously affected by the job losses that are happening,” Abigail said. “We’re seeing many more students are reporting that they are food and housing insecure than they’ve ever been before.”
For students like Alliyah, financial aid is more than just money.
“I don’t have my dad, but I have other people I can look to and look up to help me out when things get rough,” Alliyah said. “I’m not completely alone. I have people that want to see me succeed.”
It’s a lifeline after so much loss.