15:21 PM

Gator Emergency Fund Supporting UHD Students Affected By Pandemic


By Mike Emery

The ongoing Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to affect Americans from all walks of life … including students at the University of Houston-Downtown.

In addition to the health risks posed by the virus itself, UHD students are facing a changed academic landscape with online classes, virtual study sessions and new technologies. They also are faced with the harsh realities of county and state Stay at Home directives, including lost jobs, lost wages and financial hardships.

To support its students, UHD has undertaken a bold fundraising initiative, the Gator Emergency Fund. The fund is aimed at helping offset those unexpected costs incurred as a result of the pandemic. These include food, past due utility bills, unpaid rent, childcare, course materials and more. The ultimate goal of the Gator Emergency Fund is to help UHD students focus on both their health and their education.

“Our students’ strength in the face of COVID-19 is indeed inspiring,” said UHD President, Dr. Juan Sánchez Muñoz. “These are uncertain times, but they can count on one thing during this pandemic … the support of both their University and community.”

Each dollar donated to this fund will be matched up to $50,000 by university benefactor Marilyn Davies (namesake of UHD’s Marilyn Davies College of Business) and the Virani Family Fund. Anyone can contribute to this fund, and no amount is too small to make a difference in the lives of UHD students. To contribute to this fund, visit the application website and under Gift Information, scroll to “Gator Emergency Fund.”

Students are currently applying to receive support from this fund. Before the application process began, however, UHD officials were learning about the obstacles they faced. A Student Needs Assessment Survey was distributed to students to determine the barriers they are encountering during the pandemic and Stay at Home requests made by the county and state. More than 6,000 students have completed this survey.

Based on feedback, UHD also has been reaching out directly to students to provide guidance and direct them to other resources available to them (computers, counseling services, the Houston Food Bank). The Gator Emergency Fund supports these efforts with funds to be applied directly to students’ needs.

According to UHD Interim Dean of Students Dr. Meritza Tamez, students can benefit from any amount of funding received at this point.

“A gift, even a small amount, is an investment in our future by giving students the life-changing opportunity to earn a degree and give back,” Tamez said.

UHD already has stepped up in many ways to support students during the pandemic, including providing computers for online courses and summer scholarships to cover up to two courses this summer. The Gator Emergency Fund will provide even more assistance at a time when students need it most.

“COVID-19 has disrupted the very fabric of our day to day lives,” said President Muñoz. “Our student population is no stranger to rising above challenges, but this pandemic continues to be an evolving situation. The Gator Emergency Fund is an important initiative in addressing their financial struggles and helping them continue their academic journeys.”

About the University of Houston-Downtown

The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.

U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.