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Howard University is rallying around its graduating class amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The HBCU recently announced the creation of a scholarship fund to help students who are facing financial hardships as a result of the public health crisis.

The scholarship—dubbed the HUAA Emergency Scholarship Fund—will support students who are slated to graduate in May fulfill their academic goals. The pandemic has put a financial strain on individuals and the institution wanted to eliminate barriers faced by students and their families that may hold them back from receiving their degrees. Howard will award need-based scholarships to the graduating seniors.

“We have all been impacted by COVID-19, but Howard students have been hit especially hard,” Sharon Strange Lewis, the school’s Director of Alumni Relations, said in a statement. “As a Howard alumna and the parent of a Howard graduate, I understand the level of excitement, anticipation, and pressure students feel when they’re about to graduate. This fund was created to support those graduating students who have experienced unforeseen hardship caused by the outbreak. Our hope is that each gift, no matter how small, will allow us to do something great for these students.” The university has already taken several measures to help alleviate financial hardships for students including returning fees for student activities and room and board as well as waiving graduation fees.

The launch of the scholarship fund comes shortly after the controversy surrounding Congress’ $2 trillion stimulus package. Howard University alumni Sen. Kamala Harris called out Rep. Matt Gaetz over his dismay of the institution receiving $13 million as part of the package. “The bill provides $30 billion to protect students and help schools, colleges and universities combat the coronavirus. This is $13 million,” she tweeted. “Why do you take issue with money going to Howard, Congressman?”

The coronavirus outbreak has caused financial uncertainty for many HBCUs. Among some of the potential obstacles are disruptions in enrollment and fundraising efforts.

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