Campus News

Students receive assistance with coronavirus expenses

UB student forming a heart with her hands.

In addition to the emergency funding through the HEERF II program, UB has also worked to address students' mental health and wellness concerns. Photo: Douglas Levere

By DAVID J. HILL and SUE WUETCHER

Published April 22, 2021

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headshot of Sharon Mitchell.
“We’re always trying to take the pulse of what is happening on our campus, what is happening in the world and how do we make adjustments in what we’re providing based on that. ”
Sharon Mitchell, director
Counseling Services

More than 10,500 UB students received financial assistance to help with expenses related to the coronavirus pandemic, thanks to emergency aid available through the latest federal coronavirus relief legislation.

UB received $11,976,450 in HEERF (Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund) II funds through the CRRSAA (Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act). The funds provide emergency financial aid grants/assistance for both undergraduate and graduate/professional students who have incurred educational expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Priority consideration for these funds was focused on students with a FAFSA on file and who demonstrated significant financial need.

The awards covered student expenses including tuition, food, housing, health care — including mental health care — and child care. The award are grants, not loans, and do not need to be repaid. They do not affect students’ eligibility for other financial aid.

Under the first coronavirus federal stimulus package — the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act — UB received nearly $12 million for emergency financial aid grants/assistance.

More information about HEERF funding can be found on UB’s Financial Aid website.

Help with mental health, wellness concerns

Counseling Services staff Amanda Simpson, Patrice Mack and Melody Battista.

Counseling Services staff (from left) Amanda Simpson, Patrice Mack and Melody Battista work to address students’ mental health and wellness concerns. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki

In addition to providing emergency funding to eligible students through the HEERF II program, the university has also worked to address students’ mental health and wellness concerns as a result of the pandemic.

About 37% of students who’ve visited UB Counseling Services have reported that the pandemic has affected their mental health, according to Director Sharon Mitchell.

Counseling Services shifted to a teletherapy model last spring and has continued it through this year, which has allowed students to access services the same day they call. “We actually added in a lot of virtual programming and workshops that are specifically geared to address life during the pandemic,” Mitchell says.

One such workshop is called Remaining Connected While Physically Distant. “College students need to feel like they have a sense of community, so that workshop really looks at how do we, even in this environment, help you create a sense of community and hopefully prevent some of the loneliness that could arise because of the fact that we’re primarily online at the moment,” Mitchell says.

“We really try to adapt to what’s going on in the environment around us when we think about what services and programs we want to offer to our students,” she adds. “We’re always trying to take the pulse of what is happening on our campus, what is happening in the world and how do we make adjustments in what we’re providing based on that.”

For example, Counseling Services is considering a program that will help sophomores adjusting to life on campus, since for many of them this fall semester will be more similar to a freshman experience because they haven’t been on campus.

And, as the spring semester has unfolded, faculty have made a number of accommodations for students in an effort to compensate for the lack of a spring break this year. These include:

  • Giving students relief from classwork to prepare for exams.
  • Giving students relief from lab classes.
  • Extending deadlines.
  • Allowing students to drop grades and retake exams.
  • Shifting to open-book exams.
  • Adding extra-credit assignments.
  • Changing the pace of class lectures.
  • Relaxing attendance policies and providing “rejuvenation” days for students, at the discretion of individual UB schools and faculty.