For a decade, Kenyon has provided funds to students on an emergency basis to cover everything from graduate school application fees to travel or medical expenses. The need for these Student Success Funds has exceeded the budget in recent years, however — a situation exacerbated by the pandemic.
But now, following efforts by students and alumni in coordination with several campus offices, the College has committed to significantly increasing the available funds to $50,000 from $10,000 for the next academic year. In addition, $33,631 in combined giving from 186 donors during the recent Give 43022 challenge will be available to finish out this academic year, as will any other gifts to the fund.
Ubongabasi Asuquo ’23 was among those advocating for the increase, having used them herself for laundry, classroom materials and winter clothing. “I knew first-hand that the Student Success Fund was less than sufficient for these needs, especially with the growing numbers of our underrepresented students” said Asuquo, who was recently elected to serve as Student Council President next year. “This is why I raised my voice alongside Micah Smith [‘22] and the leadership of the Kenyon Alumni Student Collective [KASC] to advocate for this change. I am delighted by the increase and l hope that Kenyon continues in the upward trend of proactively supporting its students with limited financial resources.”
The budget for the funds, administered through the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, was established in 2012 through the creation of an endowed fund by an anonymous donor and was also known as the Student Emergency Assistance Fund during the early days of the pandemic.
Last fall, Michael Kengmana ’14 and Jul Tancredi ’12, along with current Student Council President Micah Smith and Asuquo, began urgently advocating for an increase in these funds through their work with KASC. Working with Chris Kennerly, Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Vice President for Student Affairs Celestino Limas and Molly Gutridge ’99, director of annual giving, the group was able to secure an increase — and create a pathway for donors to also add to these funds.
“While access to Kenyon is improving, we have to make sure that students feel safe and adequately supported once they're on the Hill. This initiative will give administrators more flexibility in allocating resources to make sure students’ needs are being met,” said Tancredi.
Limas cited the increase as a laudable example of student and alumni advocacy in concert with College staff. “We are proud of the College’s commitment to meet the needs of students, which takes many forms,” he said. “We recognized years ago that situational challenges can make life difficult for students with limited financial resources. In recent years we have seen demand for the fund increase, and this has been a shared concern of the College and alumni. We saw a moment where many who love Kenyon could collaborate on how to strengthen our investment in available resources for our students.”
Smith called the effort “an amazing show of the support our community can provide for each other across the generations,” but noted that “more can be done to make Kenyon an institution that is accessible to students of all need levels.”
Kengmana echoed that sentiment, noting that increasing access is only a first step. “It’s not enough for students just to have a chance to be at Kenyon. Every student should have the opportunity and support they need to thrive. Too often, though, there are disparate experiences amongst students — those who have the support to really have the opportunity to throw themselves into all the wonderful things Kenyon has to offer and those who do not. It is no secret that these differences fall along class and racial lines, among many others. This work is a small, but significant step towards trying to bridge the gaps that exist in pursuit of the anti-racist goals put forth by the school and will hopefully be built upon in the years to come.”
The College announced the Kenyon Access Initiative in fall of 2021, designed to create more permanent pathways to Kenyon for low-income students or those ineligible for government aid. In doing so, it acknowledged a need to also increase the support systems on campus for those students, including the Success Funds.
Everyone who had a role in the increase recognized the importance of ensuring students are aware the funds exist — and that potential donors do as well.
“Every gift made to any area at Kenyon is a testament to that donor’s care for today’s students, as seen in the overwhelming overall response through our Give 43022 Challenge. The combined giving of 1,474 people — through gifts ranging from $5 to $50,000 — brought in more than $957,374 for Kenyon,” said Gutridge.
“The goal of the Office of Annual Giving is to connect alumni to the causes at Kenyon they care about and so we are thrilled but not at all surprised that so many chose to give to these vital funds,” she said.
Limas said his office will continue to work with student leaders as well as relevant offices to raise awareness of the funds in the fall. Learn more about Student Success Funds.