More students at the University of Kansas are utilizing financial resources this semester after the pandemic put nearly 100,000 people in Kansas out of jobs and left countless others in a tough financial position.
Departments on campus, such as the Student Money Management Services, have seen a spike in students using their resources since the pandemic began.
“I’ve never seen so many students accessing financial resources as I have this semester,” said Rachel Auten, coordinator for student support and case management in the Office of the Vice Provost for Student Affairs.
The Student Money Management Services at KU are committed to improving KU students’ financial situations, according to their website.
Leticia Gradington, program director for Student Money Management Services, said her office is seeing students’ financial needs change this semester compared to semesters before the pandemic.
“Some of the things we’re seeing are students needing laptops, hotspots and other things that affect their education,” Gradington said. “For the most part, we haven’t seen that before.”
For students who need financial help on campus, it can be hard to find the resources that will meet their needs, Student Body Vice President Grant Daily said.
“A lot of services at KU are predicated on the student finding the service,” Daily said. “That’s unfortunate, but there isn’t necessarily a better way to do it.”
Since the pandemic began, Student Money Management Services have tried to reach more students virtually, Gradington said. They started using social media more to communicate with students and have seen more students come into the office.
The pandemic highlights already existing disparities in financial wellbeing, Daily said.
“Education is more than just what you learn in the classroom anymore,” he said. “With the rising costs of student fees and tuition, a lot of people have to work alongside their schoolwork.”
The students who need the resources the most often have the least time to access them, Daily said.
“Since we’re forced to work on top of everything else, even if there’s a service the university offers, it can be hard to find the time to walk in the door,” he said.
Gradington’s office is flexible around student’s schedules and works to accommodate busy students, she said.
“If you reach out to our office, we understand your time is constricted,” Gradington said. “All we need you to do is take 5-10 minutes to tell us what your situation is, and then we do the back work for you.”
Student Money Management Services staff have experience with a wide variety of resources including the Campus Cupboard, which provides students with free grocery items and budgeting help, Gradington said.
“We’ve built a very robust community resource sheet and I think we have just about every resource there is here,” Gradington said.