Over $1 million for students at McGill affected by the COVID-19 crisis

An outpouring of generosity from the McGill University community is ensuring that students in need get immediate support
Published: 15 April 2020

The McGill University community has come forward in a remarkable way to assist students who are being seriously affected financially by the COVID-19 crisis, with donors contributing over $650,000 on the strength of more than 1,500 gifts to the McGill Student Emergency Support Fund within the last two weeks. 

McGill had itself initially provided $250,000 from its operating budget to supplement support for emergency funding when the spike in urgent student need first became evident in March. The university’s Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Office recently contributed an additional $125,000. 

“In the midst of countless ongoing challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been profoundly moving to see many members of the McGill community come together to provide support for students finding themselves in serious financial need,” said Suzanne Fortier, Principal and Vice-Chancellor. “The immediate concern, timely response, and overwhelming generosity of our alumni and friends serve as a reminder of the bonds that continue to exist across generations of McGill graduates and community members. I cannot thank them enough for this thoughtful support.”

Students across the university are requesting aid for a variety of pressing reasons as they lose part-time income or are affected by pandemic-related financial difficulties that are being felt within their own families, explains Cara Piperni, Director of McGill’s Scholarships and Student Aid Office. Some are asking for help in order to pay rent and purchase groceries. Others are needing emergency travel funds to get home. And as courses move online, still others are requiring support for equipment and services necessary for the transition to a remote instruction environment. The emergency assistance is provided on the basis of demonstrated financial need.

As of April 14, there have been 233 recipients of the student emergency bursaries put in place as a result of the pandemic. According to Piperni, “On any given day, we have an average of 40 new applicants. There are many more cases in the pipeline and many daily appointments in progress.”

The need for crucial aid in the face of the pandemic is expected to continue at least through April and May. The Scholarships and Student Aid Office has seen applications from across McGill faculties, and from both undergraduate and graduate-level students.

“The Student Aid team has provided immeasurable assistance to me in the wake of the COVID crisis,” says Izuchukwu John, a master’s student in the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “At a time when we are all worried about our health, family, finances and academics, the aid I received has helped to relieve so much of my stress. The support of the McGill community at this critical moment means so much to me.” 

Part of the collective support from McGill alumni and donors includes three significant gifts: John and Marcy McCall MacBain, who last year pledged $200 million for graduate student funding by creating the McCall MacBain Scholarships at McGill, have given $100,000 to support graduate students affected by the pandemic. The Marcelle and Jean Coutu Foundation, which is a strong supporter of autism research and dentistry community outreach programs at McGill, has also contributed $100,000 to the fund. Another donor, who wishes to remain anonymous, has contributed $125,000 in matching funds to encourage further giving in support of the bursaries. 

“We have received so many requests from students who are experiencing significant financial stress due to the pandemic,” says Piperni. “The support from donors in such a short time has been incredible. It is amazing to see how the kindness of people really comes out in times like this.” 

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