No one anticipated the COVID-19 pandemic as students began classes in August 2019. However, just six months later many Redbirds and their families would be personally affected. Thankfully, Illinois State donors have been giving to the Red and White Scholarship since the fund was established in 2011 to help students with unexpected financial hardships.

Donors have infused more than $500,000 into the Red and White Scholarship Fund in recent years, so when COVID-19 began affecting current students and their families, the University was prepared to help.

More than 7,000 students requested assistance from the Office of Financial Aid who used federal funds made available from the CARES Act as well as the Red and White Scholarship Fund to help Redbirds in need.

The University awarded nearly $500,000 from the Red and White Scholarship Fund to students during the Spring 2020 semester. As calls for help increased, University Advancement created the COVID-19 Redbirds Response Fund and sought donations from the Redbird community for students affected specifically by the pandemic.

Between mid-March and June 20, the Redbirds Response Fund grew to $118,706, resulting from over 880 donors who generously rallied to help students during the pandemic. The Illinois State University Foundation Board of Directors contributed $25,000 toward the fund in support of Illinois State students, and 880 individual donors also contributed. These funds were placed into the hands of Redbirds like Kathy Magana, a first-year Special Education major. Magana and certain family members lost employment because of COVID-19 and she was uncertain how she would pay her next tuition bill.

Illinois State University student Kathy Magana

Kathy Magana

“The scholarship I received allowed me to complete my freshman year. My anxiety about not being able to pay my tuition went away, and my family was able to use the money we had to pay for groceries and other necessities. I want to thank all the donors who make these scholarships possible and who help students who feel stuck in extraordinary circumstances. Thanks to donors, I don’t feel stuck anymore.”

As cases of coronavirus continue to spread in the United States and against the backdrop of students returning to campus this fall, University Advancement is focused on re-building the Red and White Scholarship Fund by appealing to those who wish to help Illinois State students.

“Under normal circumstances, we would anticipate the need to award more Red and White Scholarships than we currently have money to provide,” said Assistant Director of Financial Aid, Shawn Rigsby. “With COVID-19 creating a domino effect economically, we expect even more requests than usual.”

If you are in a position to help, you can support the Red and White Scholarship Fund by making a gift online, over the phone, or by mail.