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Showing Support

Emergency funds help Northwestern students face unexpected financial hardships.

student on laptop recrop

Fall 2020
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When Northwestern shifted to remote learning for spring quarter in response to the coronavirus pandemic, it altered the lives of every student. For some, leaving campus so suddenly also created financial strain. 

In mid-March the University’s financial aid team began receiving a plethora of requests from undergraduate, graduate and professional school students in need of emergency financial assistance. Northwestern students hail from all 50 states and more than 120 countries, so many needed help with unexpected travel costs. The majority sought assistance to upgrade computers, internet service or other technology for remote learning.

Since 2017, the Student Emergency and Essential Needs (SEEN) Fund has provided resources to cover students’ immediate needs, from medical co-pays to emergency travel. Established with support from Northwestern donors, the fund is especially vital for low-income and first-generation students, who have grown in number as the student body has become more diverse. In the wake of the pandemic, timely philanthropic gifts have boosted emergency support for students across the University.

Meeting the Need

“Emergency funding has helped students with the things that matter most to them, when they needed it most. And in the coming year we’re going to have more families with financial need than we did before.” — Phil Asbury, director of financial aid

During the 2019–20 academic year, Northwestern’s financial aid office awarded COVID-19 emergency aid grants to 1,868 students and other emergency grants to 253 students.


Emergency financial support provided to Northwestern Pritzker School of Law students through its Student Assistance and Relief Fund (from early March to late May)


Internship stipends and hardship grants awarded to MBA students through the Kellogg School of Management’s Student Assistance Fund (from late March to early June)

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Reader Responses

  • For personal reasons I appreciated the short article in the fall 2020 issue on a special fund set aside to help meet emergency financial needs. It noted that since 2017 Student Emergency and Essential Needs (SEEN) funds have provided such resources.

    I don't think it had a special name at the time but in the late 1970s Northwestern also maintained such a fund. As I remember it, I applied for and received an immediate $25 "loan" to help make it through the weekend at a time when I was literally broke. More broadly, thanks to financial assistance from Northwestern I graduated from Medill in 1979, embarking on a 32-year Foreign Service career that included service as U.S. Ambassador to Mongolia.

    Jonathan Addleton ’79 Macon, Ga., via Northwestern Magazine

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