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LU has emergency funds available for students

LU has emergency funds available for students

Lamar University has reopened the Cardinal Emergency Fund to aid students affected by Imelda.

The Cardinal Emergency Fund was created after Hurricane Harvey created challenges for students to continue their enrollment.

“What we learned from Harvey is that the reasons that students are not able to continue in higher education after a catastrophic event are varied,” Juan Zabala, vice president of university advancement, said. “We realized one big factor is money — replacing books and computers, finding places to live and those sorts of things that students do not have access to right away, or easily. The purpose of the Cardinal Emergency Fund is to provide financial aid support to students impacted by an event such as this.”

Zabala said the Emergency Fund is administered through the university advancement office, but it was created by the university.

“The president and his executive team got together and said, ‘What can we do,’” Zabala said. “One answer was to raise money to help students.”

The Cardinal Emergency Fund is made up of tax-deductible contributions from alumni, various friends of Lamar and the community. Occasionally, even people from across the country hear about the fund and donate to it, Zabala said.

“The largest donation since Friday night, was $25,000 from one individual,” Zabala said. “I want to be careful not to make that too important, because if someone only has a $100 to give us, and they give us a $100, that is important, also. I want people who can only give $25 to realize their money is as important as anybody else’s. It is all of the contributions together that help us get to the point where we can help more students.”

Donations are collected by the office of university advancement, but awards are made through the financial aid office.

“The students will fill out a questionnaire identifying what their needs are,” Zabala said. “What happens then, is that somebody from either the office of financial aid or the office of undergraduate advising contacts that student and walks them through what it is going to take to keep them enrolled right now.”

Needs are mostly addressed as they present themselves, but there is a way that students with the greatest needs get addressed quicker, Zabala said. Each process is different depending on the student.

“Sometimes it is money, buying a new book or a new computer,” Zabala said. “Sometimes it is transportation needs, and sometimes it is living. Some people’s apartments flooded, and they cannot live there any longer. Our focus is one student at a time. We want to help every single student to be successful.”

Since Friday night, Sept. 20, more than 500 students have applied for aid through the fund. There is no deadline for applying, and no limit to how many can apply, but Zabala said students are encouraged to apply as soon as possible.

“It important for students to know no matter the numbers you are talking about, there is no number too large,” he said. “We just refuse to have a disaster of this magnitude be the thing that stops anyone from getting their degree.”

The Emergency Fund provides more than just financial aid. Counselors will also help students who do not understand all of their options.

“It is not exclusively about money — it is about helping students stay in school,” Zabala said. “While we may not have enough money to buy a new car for everybody that needs one, we certainly have the capability to help them meet their transportation needs. For example, during Harvey we used the shuttle buses on campus to drive to places and pick students up.”

Zabala said another example of non-financially-based help could be temporarily transferring to online classes, so that not having transportation becomes less of a problem.

“If you stop the process of a student enrolled in higher education (then) getting their education restarted is complicated for that student,” Zabala said. “The point of the form is to make dropping out your last option. The idea is that even though you were flooded, you do not stop your educational experience.”

Zabala said he is trying to raise awareness for the fund, so more people will be willing to contribute.

“The people who give Lamar money are committed to our students and to what we are trying to accomplish here on this campus,” he said. “We want as many people as possible to know that this is an option, so we can raise more funds to help our students. We recognize our donors by thanking them.”

Zabala said he encourages any student, facing any type of problem after Imelda to go online and fill out the form.

“If a student still has questions, stop wondering and apply,” he said. “There are students whose impact may be emotional and not financial. We still have the resources to help them. We want to encourage any student who is facing challenges continuing their educational experience to go online, fill out the form and give our professionals a chance to say, ‘Here, this is how we can help you.’”

For information, or to apply for aid or donate, visit,, or call 880-8422.

Category: News