Bellarmine campaign aids students in need

Bellarmine University’s St. Robert’s Gate is illuminated green on campus in Louisville, Kentucky on Tuesday, April 7, 2020 while students remain off campus and engage in online learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo Special to The Record by Brendan Sullivan)

To help students struggling to meet basic needs as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Bellarmine University has launched the Knights Helping Knights campaign.

The school is providing emergency assistance for food, rent, internet access and other immediate needs, said Dr. Susan Donovan, president of Bellarmine.

“We must help these students now, in this time of urgent need,” Donovan said in a phone interview April 17.

Requests for assistance are coming in daily, Donovan said.

Many students had to leave on-campus jobs or lost their paid internships after the university closed the campus. Some, who remain employed, are the only ones working in their homes, as parents are laid off or furloughed, Donovan noted.

Their needs include assistance with rent, utilities, groceries, medications and even travel to get home.

About 1,000 students that live on campus, which is about 40 percent of Bellarmine’s undergraduate population, had to suddenly pack their belongings and vacate residence halls in early March, as universities across the country shut down in-person instruction for the remainder of the spring term. Classes continued online.

To fund the effort, the university postponed its annual day of giving, which was slated for April 16. The Day of Giving has garnered $1.3 million over the last six years, supporting student scholarships, athletic programs and other initiatives.

Bellarmine launched Knights Helping Knights on March 23. To date, about 278 donors have given $134,000 to the student-aid campaign. More than $25,000 has been dispersed to students, with more going out daily.

In a video Donovan created on her iPhone after social distancing guidelines were implemented, she highlighted three ways people can assist the campaign. They are:

n Direct assistance to the student emergency fund,

n Food and monetary donations to the food pantry on campus and

n Financial donations for scholarships.

She asked her viewers to do “whatever you can do to pay it forward, to ensure we can retain our students, to bring in our incoming class, to really put people back on their feet as we move forward in the coming year.”

Classes concluded at Bellarmine yesterday, April 22, and final exams will take place next week.

The university has pro-rated residence hall and dining services expenses, totaling $1.5 million. Students may use these credits for future tuition, room and board or other future fees.

Donovan also noted Bellarmine, along with other higher education institutions in Kentucky, will receive funds from the CARES Act. The $2.2 trillion federal stimulus package provides nearly $14 billion in overall aid for higher education, according to a news release from the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education.

Of the $156 million headed to Kentucky, half is earmarked to assist students with emergency needs like technology expenses, food, housing and childcare as a result of the pandemic.

Bellarmine is slated to receive $2,469,277. Of that money, $1,234,639 is to be used for student grants. Donovan said the university expects to receive a portion of the funding in the coming weeks and noted there are stipulations for how the funds can be spent.

Until that funding arrives, some students remain in urgent need. Alumni, parents and friends of Bellarmine University are invited to contribute to the campaign to meet immediate needs of the students. Visit bellarmine.edu/knights-helping-knights/ for more information.

“Our students are incredibly grateful. I’m sure they will not forget it,” Donovan said.

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