As COVID-19 continues to pose different risks for college students, one aspect of the university experience that can be affected is financial support. At Texas Tech, it may be important to know what resources are available to assist people during these times.

Shannon Venezia, executive director of Tech Financial Aid and Scholarships, said the pandemic has had a tremendous impact on students and their families.

Tech Financial Aid has a Special Circumstance Process, which is a professional judgement made by the department that can be used when there has been a change in the financial situation for a family, Venezia said. Examples of these situations can include a reduction of income or a job loss for a student. 

“We can go ahead and look at their current financial situation to see how much it differs from 2018 taxes to see if we can replace those figures on the FAFSA,” Venezia said. 

In addition to this, Venezia said the department just got the paperwork for a secure fund from the state in the amount of $5.1 million. She said, with this money, the department will be able to assist students with additional Texas grants and an emergency grant fund program. This money will be focused on lower-income students.

“We’re really excited to get that money, as soon as the State of Texas gives it to us,” Venezia said. 

Seventy percent of students at Tech receive some sort of financial aid, Venezia said.

“The best thing a student can do when they’re in a financial hardship is to reach out to us,” she said. “We really want people to know that there are options available.” 

In addition to these financial resources, Elizabeth Massengale, managing director and assistant dean of students in Tech Student Affairs, said one of their primary programs is the Raider Relief Program.  

Raider Relief provides an assortment of resources both on and off campus to help students who just need some assistance for a variety of basic needs, Massengale said. These basic needs include things, such as a better housing situation, better childcare, better medical care, additional food resources and help with taxes.

“What we’ve done is work together to provide a network of people on campus as well as members of the community and agencies of the community that can help students that are in some sort of crisis,” Massengale said.  

Within the Raider Relief program lies the Raider Relief Fund, which was established to help students in a financial crisis and pay an off-campus expense, Massengale said. It is a one- time award paid directly to the off-campus entity and has a max of $500. 

“The goal is that we get you through the rough patch, and then you’re able to finish your education.” she said. 

Another program offered with Raider Relief is Raider Red’s Food Pantry, which is set up to allow students to request a bag of food, Massengale said. The bags have options, and if one has a food allergy or has a specific food preference, they get a specific bag.

“The food pantry is available to provide supplemental food, so it’s not meant to be long-term food access for students.” Massengale said.  

If students are needing long-term food pantry access, Massengale said they will be referred to the South Plains Food Bank.

There also is a resource available on campus to help students learn how to manage their money to hopefully avoid a financial crisis. 

Tiffany Murray, program director of Red to Black Peer Financial Coaching, said Red to Black offers a variety of educational presentations and programs to assist students. 

There are three different types of financial coaching sessions: creating a spending plan, maximizing financial aid and credit and debt, Murray said. These coaching sessions are hosted via Zoom, which is something Red to Black has always wanted to implement. 

“It looks a little bit different, feels a little bit different, but we’re still able to have that peer to peer one on one contact with students,” Murray said. 

These coaching sessions are designed to help students understand where they stand financially, help them find ways to maximize their financial aid and understand the benefits and downfalls of credit as well as help work through debt, Murray said.

Red to Black is hosting a financial education week in collaboration with financial aid on Oct. 27, 28 and 29. For more information regarding the Raider Relief Program and financial aid deadlines and scholarships, visit the Office of the Dean of Students website and the Tech Financial Aid website.

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