Carnegie Mellon University

Photo of masked students on campus

Building a Safety Net for Students Impacted by COVID-19

By Sarah Burke

Sometimes help comes right when we need it most.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit, some Carnegie Mellon students found themselves facing unanticipated hardships and struggling to afford basic necessities.

Fortunately, more than 1,500 generous supporters — and counting — have joined together to create a strong safety net for students through the Tartan Emergency Support Fund.

This spring and summer, many students needed help with rent or utilities due to unforeseen job or internship loss. Heading into the fall semester, the Tartan Emergency Support Fund is working in close partnership with the HUB service center to meet immediate and unexpected coronavirus-related needs that students may face, such as food, health care, storage, travel and other essentials.

To date, CMU has distributed nearly $500,000 in emergency funds to more than 400 students experiencing financial difficulties stemming from COVID-19. Here are just a few of their stories.

A Special Message from the Dean of Students

"The Tartan Emergency Support Fund will remain a priority for the university so that we can continue to provide a safety net to support our students as they pursue their Carnegie Mellon education."

Gina Casalegno, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students

Financial Security

This summer, Michael’s* father lost his job due to the pandemic. Michael took on four part-time positions to help support his family, yet they were still falling behind on expenses.

“As time went on, it became more and more difficult,” said the CMU senior. “I knew it was bad when we started falling behind on rent, and I sought out the Tartan Emergency Support Fund for help. They were able to provide me with the funding we needed in a truly tough month.”

Through all his challenges, CMU’s faculty and staff inspired Michael and kept him on track in his education. Even as he plans to study remotely this fall, he’s confident he’ll be able to stay in touch with people important to his education, including his advisor and fellow students.

“CMU is truly filled with a community that cares and looks out for their students,” he said. “This is why I am proud to be a Tartan.”

*Name has been changed at student’s request.

"CMU is truly filled with a community that cares and looks out for their students. This is why I am proud to be a Tartan."

Michael, CMU Student

A Passage Home

Veronica Hernandez’s home country of Colombia entered lockdown in March, severely impacting the economy and restricting travel.

Thanks to assistance from Tartan Emergency Support Fund, this senior architecture student was able to leave Pittsburgh and return home on a humanitarian flight — as well as afford to quarantine for two weeks on her own before reuniting with her family.

“The university’s constant guidance and resources have made me feel that I am not alone, that CMU truly cares about my well-being,” she said. “Receiving financial assistance really helped me and my family be more stable during months of both emotional and economic hardship.”

Veronica plans to continue her studies and campus involvement remotely this fall.

“I feel valued and extremely cherished in my CMU community that extends through the world,” she said.  


"The university’s constant guidance and resources have made me feel that I am not alone, that CMU truly cares about my well-being."

Veronica Hernandez, CMU Student

Housing Support

After Joseph’s* roommate lost his job and moved out, Joseph found himself in an impossible situation — pay double the rent, or lose his housing.

At the same time, his internship offer fell through due to the pandemic, eliminating his income source for the summer.

“One of the biggest obstacles I had during COVID-19 was the financial hardship,” he said. “I would not have been able to do this without the support of my department and CMU.”

The Tartan Emergency Support Fund helped cover rent and utility bills, allowing Joseph to focus on his graduate studies in engineering. This year, he’s looking forward to completing his degree.

“Everyone in the CMU community makes an effort to contribute in the transition to our new environment,” Joseph said. “They’re providing a platform for student involvement as well as supporting students in need.”

*Name has been changed at student’s request.