Campus news

How UC Berkeley is supporting students and staff through COVID-19

Sather Gate
UC Berkeley's Sather Gate (Photo by Peg Skorpinski)

Chancellor Carol Christ and Vice Chancellor for Development and Alumni Relations Julie Morgan Hooper sent the following message to the campus community on Tuesday:

Last Tuesday, our campus participated in #GivingTuesdayNow, a global day of giving that was launched to help support those most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. We write today to offer an update on the success of that drive, to share other campus efforts to support vulnerable members of our community, and to encourage students in need to apply for aid if you have not already done so. Please visit the COVID-19 emergency relief fund portal to identify and apply for all of the funding for which you may be eligible.

Student Emergency Fund

As we reported last week, Kathy Kwan – a generous UC Berkeley alumna – kicked off our #GivingTuesdayNow drive by committing $1 million to emergency financial support for Berkeley students. She also challenged other alumni, parents, donors, and community members to build upon her generosity by raising an additional $1 million for the Student Emergency Fund.

Since Tuesday, we have heard from many donors inspired by Kathy’s challenge, and we are pleased to announce that more than 2,000 individuals have stepped up to support the fund, which offers direct financial support to Berkeley undergraduate and graduate students experiencing unforeseen difficulties and who are disparately impacted during this time. Our fundraising efforts will continue as we continue our work to meet Kathy’s challenge.

Through our Financial Aid and Scholarships Office, we have awarded undergraduate and graduate students $547,000 in Financial Aid and Scholarships and emergency funding since the crisis began, as well as an additional $120,000 in emergency grants for graduate students from the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant.

Basic Needs Fund

Our community has also come together to support our Bear Pantry and Diaper Bank, located in our student family housing facilities, with $80,000 in donations from the Graduate Assembly and $5,000 from the philanthropic Section Club. Additionally, the campus has supported the Bear Pantry and Diaper Bank with $10,000 as well as food donations. Finally, the Offices of the Vice Chancellor for Administration and the Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion led an effort with Cabinet colleagues in repurposing a total of $63,750 to the Basic Needs Fund, recognizing that staff are among those disparately impacted and suffering multiple challenges right now.

Support for International Students

While not eligible for significant federal and state aid, we know that our international students are nonetheless going through a very challenging period. These students are vital to the vibrancy of our community, and the Berkeley International Office is currently reviewing over 200 applications from international students for emergency student aid. The office will aim to distribute campus funds to international students in the next several weeks.

Support for Graduate Students

Through our Graduate Division, we increased summer funding for graduate students by $600,000. This block grant funding was given to departments to allocate to students. Additionally, the Graduate Division allocated an additional $200,000 in funding to support COVID-19-related basic needs relief, including for graduate student parents. They also increased the number of subsidized back-up care hours that student parents can use for the rest of the school year.

Technology Assistance

The Student Technology Fund (STF) created an emergency response Technology Access Program that, with the support of $280,000 in students’ Student Technology Fees, enabled it to distribute 470 laptops and 200 mobile Wi-Fi hotspots with paid unlimited data plans for six months. STF is funding this program’s expansion in the 2020-21 academic year with an additional $490,000, and has granted $100,000 to Moffitt Library’s electronic lending program, and $228,000 to secure ZoomPro accounts and ZoomPro IT support for all students. STF and others have also supported the launch of the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund portal.

Federal CARES Act Funding for Students

Finally, as mentioned in previous messages, the campus secured $15.2 million in direct-to-student aid through the CARES Act (the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security federal relief bill). These cash grants will help undergraduate and graduate students pay for course materials, technology, food, housing, healthcare and child care expenses they incur as a result of social distancing and remote instruction. The campus has awarded $9.6 million of the $11.2 million set aside for eligible undergraduates. The Financial Aid and Scholarships Office, the Graduate Division, and the Graduate Assembly are working closely on awarding CARES Act funding to graduate students and anticipate that $4 million in awards will be distributed to graduate students beginning at the end of May.  Although undocumented students are not eligible to receive CARES Act funding, UC Berkeley is committed to providing equivalent awards to undocumented students who qualify for in-state tuition under AB540. We have awarded over $327,000 in CARES-equivalent funding to undergraduates who filed a California Dream Act Application.

Commitment to our Community

As we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and its fallout, UC Berkeley leadership remains committed to supporting the members of our community in any way we can. We are thrilled by the ways in which our alumni and donors have heeded this call, too, and thank them for their generosity. We look forward to working with all of our students, staff and faculty to better understand your needs, support you through this challenging period, and ultimately emerge stronger on the other side.