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IIE allocates $2m to help int’l students in need

Having committed $1 million to help hundreds of international students in the US caught in the crossfire of the coronavirus pandemic, the Institute of International Education is in the process of distributing another $1 million to aid a further 300 students in dire need of support.

IIE learned of international students living in homeless shelters and those who had Covid-19 and now have medical bills piling up. Photo: Pexels

"We received more than 1,200 nominations from more than 250 member institutions"

As reported by The PIE News, IIE launched the IIE Emergency Student Fund: Covid-19 Response to support international students currently studying at IIENetwork Institutions.

“This is not a natural disaster that is limited to one student population or one nationality”

“The emergency student fund at IIE is something we have been doing for quite some time, but typically they are also for a specific student population,” head of IIE Student Emergency Initiatives, Nele Feldmann, told The PIE.

“But this is not a natural disaster that is limited to one student population or one nationality,” she said.

“So we launched our first ever ESF for ‘any’ international student who is stranded in the US and cannot go home to their home country perhaps because the borders are closed or their parents lost income and they don’t have the funding to pay for plane tickets, and also in a lot of cases may not be safe [to return home].”

The organisation sent out a notification to more than 1,400 IIE member institutions in the US, asking campus administrators to nominate international students on their campus who were impacted by Covid-19, could not return home and are in dire need of funding so they can pay housing, food and medical expenses.

Through the campaign, Feldmann said IIE learned of international students living in student homeless shelters and those who have Covid-19 and now have medical bills piling up.

“We received more than 1,200 nominations from more than 250 member institutions, just after sending one notification. So this really speaks volumes in terms of the need that is out there,” she explained, adding that a lot of the students also have children or dependents to care for.

To launch the effort, IIE initially allocated $1 million to cover approximately 310 emergency grants, then aimed to raise double that amount “because the need is so great”.

“We’re now in the process of giving out a total of $2 million,” Feldmann continued.

“The need is practically endless. And if we said today, ‘please nominate more students you’re discovering in need’, I’m sure we’d get another 1,000 nominations.”

Having been founded in 1919 in the middle of the Spanish influenza pandemic, helping students out in times of war, natural disasters or pandemic is “part of IIE’s DNA”, CEO of IIE, Allan E. Goodman told The PIE.

“We’re doing all that we can – as we get a dollar in we’re going to put the dollar out to help everybody that we possibly can. But there are many other needs in every society out there looking to raise money. So it’s very difficult to see where the next million dollars are going to come from,” he added.

According to a recent IIE survey, 88% of US higher education institutions anticipate that international student enrolment will decline in the 2020/21 academic year, with a third (30%) anticipating a “substantial” drop off in numbers.

Goodman said that given the huge number of international students in the US, there is “a lot of sympathy” for them.

“We’re accustomed to having a million international students in America,” he told The PIE. “That’s what’s good for Ohio, Michigan, California, New York, Florida, wherever we are.

“We’re accustomed to having a million international students in America”

“Some of these students are in labs right now, working on vaccines that will hopefully cure us or protect us.”

Feldmann added that the ESF is a good example of what one organisation can do to help.

“We have changed 310 students’ lives – plus a lot of dependents – and helped them to figure out how they’re going to survive in summer,” she added.

“And we are about to support another 300 students. But there is always the feeling that we would like to help more students, and having to make a decision on who will receive this funding and who won’t, those are really difficult decisions.

“Although it might not help every single student, it’s not a small endeavour to support 600 students, and it’s a good example of what one organisation can achieve,” Feldmann said.

To learn more or donate to the IIE Emergency Student Fund: Covid-19, visit here.

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