Three Ways to Give Creatively During COVID-19
October 22, 2020 | Rebecca Richards
While many financial issues facing institutions of higher education pre-date COVID-19, the coronavirus pandemic continues to present major challenges to colleges and universities and is sure to have lasting repercussions. There are several ways that philanthropists can step in to help students receive a quality education in these difficult times. Here are three specific areas in which philanthropy can make a difference.
Coronavirus testing on campus. The Gates Foundation recently gave $15 million to support COVID-19 testing at Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The gift allows certain schools to serve as “hubs” where they can process their own coronavirus tests as well as those of other institutions. Some campus leaders are incentivizing students to get tested as the semester continues. Routine testing is expensive but is essential to ensuring students’ safety and well-being. Philanthropy can mitigate some of the cost of testing as well as support the purchasing of personal protective equipment.
Online learning. The transition to remote learning over the spring semester was difficult for many colleges because they lacked the technology and training for professors to overhaul the format of their classes. Educational and technology companies are rapidly developing new online learning tools that are specifically geared toward the needs of higher education. Virtual classes have existed for a long time; however, creating courses that stimulate as much student engagement as in-person classes requires equipment, technological platforms, and expertise. Consider making a gift that can help universities be innovative with online and hybrid teaching, fund training for professors and staff, or, if you have a particular department or academic center in mind, ask what it needs most.
Financial assistance for faculty. Back in the spring, colleges and universities drew on student emergency funds to help send students back home and provide the technological support they would need for participating in online classes. The cost of teaching online, however, has been in large part swallowed by young faculty or graduate students, who bear the brunt of the teaching load at most colleges. Between increased electric bills, lack of childcare, and buying new technological equipment, faculty members are struggling financially, especially those with families to support. A fund that provides stipends or reimbursements for some of these expenses could be created with both university and donor support.
The three areas of focus listed here are not the only options that will help academic institutions. At the Fund for Academic Renewal, we encourage donors to give in a way that supports their vision for higher education. Whether through increasing academic rigor, encouraging curricular reform, or simply giving to a direct, practical need, philanthropy has a significant impact on campuses across the country. Now, more than ever, colleges and universities can benefit from the generosity, creativity, and insight of donors as they continue to navigate educating students in the midst of a pandemic.