When Ontario implemented its first COVID-19 lockdown last spring, Rajasekar Dhanasekar found himself in a tight financial spot.
A master’s student in the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, Dhanasekar had been working about 20 hours a week at a Rexall store to cover his tuition and rent.
But once the pandemic hit, the pharmacy slashed its hours and Dhanasekar’s shifts – and paycheques – dwindled.
“I drained all of my savings,” Dhanasekar recalls. “My parents were also struggling themselves, so I didn’t want to ask them for help. I had nowhere to go.”
That’s when one of his friends introduced him to the School of Graduate Studies (SGS) Emergency Grant, which provides immediate, short-term financial relief to full-time graduate students who are experiencing a financial crisis or have incurred unexpected expenses due to COVID-19.
The program is part of a suite of financial aid offerings that U of T has in place to help students navigate financial challenges. They include the COVID-19 Emergency Undergraduate Grant, which was launched last March and is designed to help students cover basic expenses, including internet, but not educational costs such as tuition. It can be accessed by submitting an online application to the registrar in their college or faculty.
Approximately $8.9 million in emergency grants have been disbursed to more than 6,800 U of T undergraduate and graduate students since last March. That generally translates into anywhere from $500 to $2,000 in emergency aid per student, although disbursements can exceed that amount.
“Individual students’ circumstances have been affected in many unique ways as a result of the pandemic,” says Micah Stickel, U of T’s acting vice-provost, students. “Students in some cases were really in desperate need of that short-term relief.”
(By Yanan Wang)