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) – the second-largest university in Houston – 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 more than 15,000 students; boasts more than 61,000 alumni and offers 45 bachelor’s, nine master’s degree programs and 16 fully online programs within five colleges (Marilyn Davies College of Business; Humanities & Social Sciences; Public Service; Sciences & Technology; and University College).

For the fourth consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report ranks UHD among universities across the nation for Best Online Criminal Justice Programs (No. 27 and No. 15 for Veterans) and Best Online Bachelor’s Programs.

UHD has the most affordable tuition among four-year universities in Houston and one of the lowest in Texas. U.S. News ranked the University among Top Performers on Social Mobility and awarded UHD a No. 1 ranking as the most diverse institution of higher education in the southern region of the U.S. The University is noted nationally as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, Minority-Serving Institution and Military Friendly School. For more on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit www.uhd.edu.