#UofReginaCares: Caring for our community
Michelle Intarakosit, a third-year nursing student, is one of the many grateful University of Regina beneficiaries of Student Emergency Funding.
Michelle Intarakosit, a third-year nursing student, is one of the many grateful University of Regina beneficiaries of Student Emergency Funding. Photo: Michelle Intarakosit

The student need is great: the financial impact of COVID-19

By University Advancement and Communications Posted: May 4, 2020 8:00 a.m.

New friends, vibrant campus life, interesting courses - the life of a university student is exhilarating and yet often incredibly stressful. While trying to balance studying, group projects, and classes, students often need to find a means to support themselves. Many students live paycheque to paycheque and rely on money earned from summer employment to cover the cost of tuition and living expenses for a full school year.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed all that.

Many of those much-needed part-time jobs no longer exist. Students’ lives and finances are being impacted by COVID-19 and the longer the pandemic drags on, the greater the need.

The University of Regina Student Emergency Fund was created as a lifeline for students being hit particularly hard by the economic impacts of COVID-19. While caring donors have risen to the challenge, the number of applications for the Student Emergency Fund continues to grow each day.

One grateful beneficiary of the Student Emergency Fund is third-year nursing student Michelle Intarakosit. Living in a single-parent home with her mother and grandmother, Michelle feels fortunate to have such a caring family.

“I do my best to support myself, but my mom supports us all – she pays for food and keeps the lights on here. She really is the breadwinner of the household,” says Michelle.

Since COVID-19 hit, Michelle’s situation has become much more difficult. Michelle works as a casual employee at a care home for adults with physical, mental, and intellectual disabilities to hone her professional skills and help to pay the bills. She was expecting increased hours over the summer, but as a result of COVID-19, she can no longer rely on the job as a steady source of income for her family. To make matters worse, Michelle’s mother owns a sewing and alteration business that has been forced to shut down.

“We don’t know when she will be able to reopen her business and aren’t sure what she will receive from her applications to the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit and Small Business Emergency Fund,” says Michelle. “There is no money coming in. It’s a tough situation for us all.”

While each student story is unique, the recurring theme is that many U of R students who were just able to scrape by before the pandemic hit, are now struggling to make ends meet and cover life’s necessities – never mind focus on their studies.

“When the University closed, I was doing my clinical placement at a hospital. The stress of putting myself at risk and then coming home to my 90-year-old-grandmother and putting her at risk caused a lot of anxiety,” said Michelle. “Once our clinical was transferred online, many of us were still dealing with a variety of challenges outside of our control.”

Facing high levels of stress, along with financial uncertainty and limited options available, Michelle knew she had to reach out for help beyond her family.

“My mom and I have been taking turns paying for groceries, which can be very expensive. She is always happy to support me, but I hate having to add to her burden with my bills during these uncertain times. That is why I applied to the Student Emergency Fund,” says Michelle.

Michelle’s application to the U of R Student Emergency Fund was approved and she has received some much-needed financial assistance.

“It was such a relief. It’s exactly the help I need right now,” said Michelle. “As a student, it feels so great to receive this type of support from your own University. So many other students are in a similar situation to me and having the Student Emergency Fund available to those who need it most is crucial.” 

Many students who previously did not qualify for the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit will now be eligible for funding through the Canada Emergency Student Benefit and Canada Student Service Grant announced on April 22. Although the funding will provide welcome relief, those programs have yet to be launched. Many students have been out of work for months with no source of income and require financial support beyond what is being offered. Previous months’ bills still need to be paid and living expenses continue to mount.

“The U of R’s Student Emergency Fund provides vital funding over and above what is being offered by government programs. Students need this support to survive and to be able to focus on their studies,” says Michelle.

After the pandemic, even with the assistance of government programs, many domestic students will be left with no means to support themselves as businesses may not be able to rehire as quickly as they would like. While the federal government has lifted the 20-hours-of-work per-week limit for those International students working in essential services (health care, critical infrastructure or the supply of food or other critical goods), international students remain unsure if they will be eligible for the same social benefits that other students receive.

The Prairie Kitchen Party – slated for early May but since cancelled – was the primary fundraising event for the U of R’s Student Emergency Fund. Redhead Equipment generously turned their event sponsorship into a $10,000 matching fund. So many people have generously given to the Student Emergency Fund that the matching fund has been met – meaning that Redhead Equipment and donors helped to raise $20,000 for the Student Emergency Fund. But so much more is needed.

With the number of applications rising each day, the Student Emergency Fund is, once again, running dangerously low. Over $100,000 has already been distributed to more than 100 students to help pay for necessities like housing and groceries. U of R staff are working diligently to continue processing the hundreds of applications that have already been submitted – with an even larger influx of applications expected in the coming months.

All gifts to the U of R’s Student Emergency Fund – no matter their size – will be welcome lifelines to students like Michelle and so many of our 16,000+ domestic and international students.

The need is great. Consider giving to the Student Emergency Fund today or on May 5, Giving Tuesday – a global day of giving and unity.

Donate now!

Check out #UofReginaCares for more stories about U of R students, alumni, faculty, and staff who are using their ingenuity, resolve, and hearts to care for our community during these challenging times.