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Access Fund Eased Pandemic’s Burden on Students

Access Fund
Cornell University
Woman sitting in a blue airline seat wearing a red face mask, surrounded by empty seats.

Raven Schwam-Curtis ’20 was still confronted with financial and emotional disruption when the pandemic forced Cornell to abruptly suspend classes in mid-March. Raven bid rushed goodbyes to friends and mentors, packed all her belongings into a handful of boxes, and boarded a nearly empty flight home to Houston–incurring significant unexpected expenses. She reached out for help to Cornell’s Access Fund, which supports lower-income students with certain basic and emergency needs. The fund reimbursed part of her shipping and flight costs. “That relieved a huge financial burden,” Raven said. “The folks I was in contact with at the Access Fund went above and beyond to show up for our communities. It was really extraordinary.”

As the COVID-19 crisis escalated, the year-old Access Fund emerged as a pivotal player in the university’s pandemic response, helping eligible students get home and prepare for the shift to virtual instruction. Over a three-week period that ended April 2, the fund distributed nearly $400,000 to support more than 1,000 students with travel, shipping, storage, technology–including more than 200 laptops purchased and delivered–plus rent and grocery relief for some graduate students. Another 130 students have received $38,000 in support since then.

The Access Fund opened in January 2019 with seed money provided by an alumni gift.

Read the full story by James Dean, Cornell Chronicle