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With the help of their undergraduate leaders, Macalester College and the University of St. Thomas each are providing funding to students undergoing financial challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The University of Minnesota also is making emergency funding available to students during the pandemic, officials said. And St. Olaf College in Northfield started helping students with coronoavirus-related expenses back in February, said Steve Lindley, the college's associate director of financial aid.

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The emergency funds are available to help students with financial needs like rent payments, groceries and utility bills, including internet access.

"This is meant to provide a little bit of relief to some of those issues that they are facing," said Brian Lindeman, assistant vice president for admissions and financial aid at Macalester.

The school's student government recently donated $50,000 to the fund, Lindeman said. Since the fund was created about two weeks ago, Macalester has provided about 50 students with funding totaling $26,000.

St. Thomas' fund just got a big boost from its undergraduate student government, which donated $75,000 in funds collected from student events and programs that were canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak.

"We saw the need and saw the opportunity for student government to provide more funds to help more students," said Logan Monahan, a St. Thomas senior who is president of the student government.

About $200,000 of funds are available for U students on the Twin Cities campus, said Beth Lingren Clark, associate vice provost for strategic enrollment initiatives. She emphasized that the number is changing daily, and that the amount of funding varies at other U campuses around the state, she said.

As of Wednesday, more than 500 students had applied for the funding, said Julie Selander, director of One Stop Student Services at the U. Students are granted about $600 on average.

Karen Lange, St. Thomas' vice president for student affairs, said that as of Friday the fund had about $160,000, but the amount of available funding was changing daily. The maximum amount a student can receive is $750, she said.

St. Thomas students may apply for the funding online and must include documentation verifying their financial situation. More than 200 students had applied for the funding as of Friday, Lange said.

"The first very significant amount of money came from our student government. And now we're seeing other donors also step up and share their treasure with us. And that helps us to be able to help students," she said.

St. Thomas already had an emergency fund available to students for various financial situations. But since classes were moved online and many businesses and workplaces have closed due to the outbreak, the university shifted the fund toward the support of students through the pandemic, Lange said.

"So many of our students have lost their jobs because a lot of our students work in retail and restaurants. And, of course, with the change in Minnesota, they lost their jobs pretty quickly. So this is really important to help them get through the next few months," she said.

St. Olaf also had an emergency fund in place, but concerns started to shift toward COVID-19 when more restrictions were established and classes were moved online.

St. Olaf has been helping students purchase airplane tickets to return home, particularly for international students. Normally students can receive no more than $500 from the fund, but Lindley said the college will provide more funding if necessary.

"Our ultimate goal is to get students to graduate from St. Olaf College ... Obviously, there are some financial limits, but we want to do whatever we can to help students successfully complete the semester," he said.

In addition to providing funding, the U has been helping students file for unemployment.

"We're in extraordinary times and students really can be in crisis, not only financially but their overall well-being. And this is really something that the university can do, hopefully quickly, to let students know that we're here to support them," Lingren Clark said.

Monahan said the funding relates to the student government's mission to support and represent students, particularly when they are "scared of the unknown."

"I think it's really important for us as an organization, as well as the University of St. Thomas, to really step up and offer this support to our students and show them that we do still care and we will be with them throughout this entire pandemic," Monahan said.

Katrina Pross (katrina.pross@startribune.com) is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.