Wheaton, SGA partner on Student Relief Fund

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Community contributes to financial support during global pandemic

In March, after the college switched to remote operations for safety, it quickly became clear that many students needed financial support to deal with the impact caused by the global pandemic, including help to pay for unexpected travel and living and technology expenses.

To address the challenges, Wheaton College officials partnered with Student Government Association leaders to create the Student Relief Fund to fill the gaps left after the federal government issued emergency relief funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, an economic aid package passed by the U.S. Congress.

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Susan Jenks Beard ’90

Working together, they raised approximately $306,000 to help hundreds of students with housing and food insecurity; travel expenses related to returning home; technology needs to ensure access to remote learning; replacing learning materials that were readily available on campus; and other unforeseen financial concerns.

“The CARES Act funding was helpful for some students, but it was restricted to certain populations—for example, only those who filed a FAFSA [Free Application for Federal Student Aid] were eligible. It left out many students who needed support,” said Susan Jenks Beard ’90, Wheaton director of student financial services. “The Student Relief Fund greatly enhanced the amount that the federal government allocated to Wheaton.” 

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Abby Cook ’22

“The amazing generosity of the Wheaton community—faculty, staff, alumni and especially the Student Government Association [SGA]—made it possible,” Beard said.

The $306,000 includes $146,429 contributed from more than 300 Wheaton alumni, parents and friends and $159,481 contributed by SGA.  

Abby Cook ’22 and Elizabeth Eaton ’22, SGA Ad-hoc Committee on Transparency co-chairs, co-wrote proposals to allocate more than $64,000 from SGA accounts to the Student Relief Fund. 

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Elizabeth Eaton ’22

“The Student Government Association had a surplus of funds from our various SGA accounts, and had been deliberating on how to best invest that money to serve all students in the Wheaton community. We decided to partner with the Wheaton administration to pool our funding and support our peers during this uncertain time,” said Cook, a political science and Hispanic studies double major, and SGA secretary for 2019–20 and student body vice president for 2020–21. 

Cook and Eaton, who created the Ad-hoc Committee on Transparency, promoted the fund and rallied other campus clubs and organizations to contribute, which resulted in a collective donation of an additional $95,000 from club budgets.  

The SGA Ad-Hoc Committee on Transparency aims to provide information about the benefits and impacts of the Student Relief Fund. Other committee members include Eva Danielson ’22, Cleef Jonathas ’23, Harry Topol ’22, Sofie Weston ’22, Sophie Waters ’23 and Harrison Zeiberg ’22.

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Harry Topol ’22

“The main purpose of SGA is to advocate for and support all of Wheaton’s students. Although we were no longer physically on campus together, this fund was a great way for us to continue fulfilling our mission,” said Topol, a neuroscience major and Hispanic studies minor. 

“The Student Relief Fund truly embodies and exemplifies the tight-knit, caring and strong Wheaton community. It has been so rewarding to hear back from students and families who have received funding. They have expressed their appreciation not only for the financial aid, but also their gratitude for being part of a community that values all of its students and is committed to ensuring accessibility to higher education,” Topol said.