Friday 26 June 2020 11:41am
Since it was launched last month, the University of Otago student financial relief fund Pūtea Tautoko has allocated grants with a total value of $659,156, and has also received a major boost from alumni, friends, staff, current students and parents, who have pledged nearly $300,000. Heart-warming comments from donors include the following from Otago alumni and staff members Professors Craig Rodger and Tony Reeve:
“In my life I have been an undergraduate and postgraduate student at Otago, and now a staff member. I know financial pressures can have a big influence on a student’s life when they should be studying - the scale of the COVID disruption is far bigger than anything which occurred in my lifetime. Knowing what a difference some financial help can make, I felt compelled to help today's students by donating to the hardship fund.”
- Professor Craig Rodger, Beverly Professor of Physics, Department of Physics, University of Otago.
- Professor Tony Reeve, Cancer Genetics Laboratory, Otago Genomics Facility, Department of Biochemistry, University of Otago.
if you would like to donate to the fund please visit our donation page
Continue reading for the full update on Pūtea Tautoko:
The University's student financial relief fund Pūtea Tautoko has already helped a wide range of students, from first-years to postgraduates, and both domestic and international.
Since it was launched last month, the University of Otago student financial relief fund Pūtea Tautoko has allocated grants with a total value of $659,156 to support students facing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
During this time, the fund has also received a major boost from alumni, friends, staff, current students and parents, who have responded to the needs of the student community by pledging nearly $300,000.
Created as a way for the University community to support students facing hardship due to the pandemic, the University has committed an initial investment of $1.5 million to the fund, making it the largest hardship initiative in its history.
"Unfortunately, the need we are seeing now is only likely to grow over the coming months as the reality of further job losses and pressure on businesses continues to play out."
Together with substantial hardship funding provided to the University by the Government in follow-up to its May budget announcements, this means that the Pūtea Tautoko fund now stands at more than $3 million in total.
During the lockdown, many students lost their part-time jobs, which they relied on for vital income, while others face greatly reduced financial support from their families.
Applications to Pūtea Tautoko opened on 14 May, and by Thursday 4 June 345 grants with a total value of $659,156 had been approved. Grant recipients have come from across the University and range from first-year undergraduates to senior postgraduates, and include both domestic and international students.
The fund is helping students cover their utility and electricity bills, accommodation costs, travel costs back to campus, essential groceries and toiletries. Postgraduate research students have received tuition fees rebates and scholarship extensions.
“The pandemic has created unprecedented levels of hardship within our student community and Pūtea Tautoko is a critical part of Otago’s response to support students through this challenging time,” says Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne.
“The situations facing students in the most severe cases are quite harrowing, and the chairs of the assessment panels considering applications have noted the importance of the feedback provided by the independent referees that applicants are required to nominate.
“Unfortunately, the need we are seeing now is only likely to grow over the coming months as the reality of further job losses and pressure on businesses continues to play out.”
"I don’t want students who have worked so hard to be at university, or were given a life-changing opportunity to attend university, to have that taken away from them by factors outside their control."
Professor Hayne says the response to the hardship fund from the University community has been extraordinary, and heart-warming. More than 300 donations have come from first-time donors to the University.
“We are extremely grateful for the generosity shown by our alumni and friends, staff, students and parents. The way they have reached out to help makes it possible for so many of our most vulnerable students to receive the support they need.”
Many donors have attached notes to their donations, explaining why they have chosen to support the fund. Alumna Nicole Warren says: “I don’t want students who have worked so hard to be at university, or were given a life-changing opportunity to attend university, to have that taken away from them by factors outside their control.”
In return, students have expressed their thanks. International student Kath, from the Philippines, responded to the news of her grant with the comment: “Ngā mihi nui ki a koe. A deep gratitude for your support. This is really refreshing to receive and I’m honoured by your kindness. A wonderful news to share with my family amidst the times. Thank you for supporting us to continue my studies. Kia kaha, Kath.”
All students are eligible to apply to the fund, whether they are New Zealand or International students, full-time or part-time, undergraduate or postgraduate.
Applications are considered by several panels, all including student representation. The panels robustly assess hardship, using tools the University already has to assess applications for existing hardship funds, and for needs-based scholarships.