Generous donor starts fund to help students financially during the COVID-19 pandemic

Lighten the Load text in a photo at the CSU Oval

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused financial stress for many individuals, including students. Fortunately, financial support from sympathetic donors and friends are providing some relief. The Colorado State University College of Health and Human Sciences received a donation of $25,000 from an anonymous donor back in June of 2020 to launch a fund to help students with unanticipated expenses.

The donor was experiencing a personal crisis of their own due to the COVID-19 pandemic but decided to make a positive impact for students in a time of uncertainty and hardship. Thanks to the generosity of this donor, CHHS students have the option of applying for and potentially receiving emergency aid through the new “Lighten the Load” fund.

“At a time when life was very difficult, this caring donor chose to plant a seed of hope in the future,” said Kelsey Burket, associate director of development for the college. “Instead of focusing on personal challenges, this donor decided to focus on reducing the burdens of others.”

Helping students during the time of COVID-19

The scope of student need is great. With many students losing their jobs and sources of income, unexpected costs have become difficult to cover.

“The purpose of the Lighten the Load fund is to support students’ immediate emergency needs that might jeopardize their ability to stay in school,” said Jen Aberle, interim associate dean for undergraduate affairs and associate professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies.

Undergraduate and graduate students at a part-time or full-time status can apply. When the fund first opened for applications in September, the college was able to support 170 students averaging around $150 each. The application opens for eight days at the beginning of each month.

A large number of students who were helped by the Lighten the Load fund expressed that they were struggling to meet their monthly expenses with enough money left to buy food. COVID-19 has led to students and their families losing their jobs, along with their working hours being cut. Some students are having to rely on public places with Wi-Fi to complete classwork. Getting to class and sites with public Wi-Fi has been a challenge when a car breaks down. Many students expressed being so overwhelmed and worried about finances that it was difficult to focus on their schoolwork.

“For many students, these small grants are providing relief for monthly expenses and emergency bills,” said Aberle. “Many of the students we were able to support have been coping with job losses, medical bills, and emergencies because of the pandemic. This fund could not have come at a better time to truly ease the burden a bit and to let our students know that there are a lot of people who care and wanting to support them right now.”

Donating to Lighten the Load

The fund has continuously been accepting donations since the initial $25,000 gift, with great support from College of Health and Human Sciences faculty, staff, and Executive Leadership Council members.  Even with these additional gifts, the need is greatly exceeding what the college can support. With over 5,500 students in the college and 27% of undergraduates identifying as first-generation students, the need for financial assistance is great. In the first round, the Lighten the Load fund received 452 applications from CHHS students totaling more than $900,000 in requests for funding.

Donations of any size are greatly appreciated and will go towards helping College of Health and Human Sciences students cover emergency costs to continue their education. This type of assistance can make a real difference for struggling students. If interested in donating, visit the Lighten the Load donation page.

“The Lighten the Load fund will always be accepting donations,” said Burket. “Currently, we are catering to student demand due to the pandemic. However, this fund will live on in perpetuity and will support students during any type of unforeseen financial crisis or hardship.”