(Credit: Megan Zendek/Fourth Estate)
by Amina Benguedouar
A million dollar fund created to serve as a fallback for students at Mason is now open to applicants.
The Stay Mason Student Support Fund, previously called the Mason Access Initiative, is designed to help higher education become more accessible to Mason students.
Rodrigo Velasquez, president of Mason DREAMers, worked closely with administration in order to make the fund possible.
“Over the summer, meetings [between students and administration] were had, and Access Mason became Stay Mason, which is composed of different projects,” Velasquez said. “One is emergency funding for students who are at risk of leaving the university, and another big aspect of it is financial literacy.”
According to the program description on the University Life website, “Stay Mason assists George Mason students who are at risk of not continuing their education due to unexpected financial situations.”
Students are given the opportunity to receive one-time funding through a short application process. The application asks for contact information, answers to a few short questions and the individual’s story or reason for applying.
Each person’s situation is carefully considered by a committee before funds are awarded. Velasquez said funds will be granted based on the needs of each student and availability of funds.
Students awarded funds will also take part in a financial literacy program. According to the University Life website, the program will give students and their families the opportunity to learn more about available financial resources and how they can make use of them.
Velasquez explained that “one of the biggest problems is not only are there limited financial resources, but students don’t know about financial resources that do exist.”
Students will not be asked to pay back the money they receive from Stay Mason. However, it is highly encouraged that they contribute to the fund once they are able to, either during or after their time at Mason, in order to keep the program running.
According to Velasquez, the administration has been working closely with GMU Student Power, Mason DREAMers and Student Government in order to make this fund as beneficial and accessible to students as possible ever since its approval by the Board of Visitors on May 6.
Conversations between students and administration began when GMU Student Power, as a part of the Virginia Power Network, held a speak-out in March regarding the rise of tuition prices. Administrators approached members of the group, and the two parties began to discuss possible solutions.
At the Board of Visitors meeting, a petition with approximately 800 signatures from students, faculty and staff was set forth.
“Several students attended the Board of Visitors meeting and presented the petition to show student support,” said Samantha Parsons, president of GMU Student Power.
Paula Suciu, a freshman neuroscience major who holds full responsibility of her own tuition fees, said it is comforting to know that a financial safety net exists.
“It’s reassuring to know we, as students, have some sort of support if something does happen,” Suciu said. “I think a lot of students will find [the fund] useful.”
For those who believe they are in a situation that requires Stay Mason’s aid, the application can be found on the University Life website.