Graduate Emergency Fund

The Graduate Emergency Fund provides grants to assist currently enrolled graduate and professional students with urgent financial needs and financial hardship due to unanticipated, one-time expenses.

The fund is intended to support the continued academic progress and well-being of students experiencing short term financial hardship who cannot reasonably resolve their immediate financial needs through loans, aid programs, or personal resources. 

 

Please review all the information on this page before submitting a request to the Graduate Emergency Fund.

Any student experiencing financial need is encouraged to contact a Financial Aid counselor through SFS or their school Financial Aid office. Staff can provide guidance and advice in navigating additional financial resources that may be available to you. Students experiencing significant stress or feelings impacting your personal well-being are also encouraged to contact CAPS and/or to take advantage of resources on the CAPS website.

Students experiencing an immediate financial emergency impacting their housing or health should contact Student Intervention Services right away.

Scope of Funding

Emergency Fund grants are available to assist with a range of expenses that cannot reasonably be met through other forms of aid or personal resources available to a student. Only urgent needs and unexpected expenses incurred by the student directly will be considered. Documentation of actual or estimated expenses is required. 

Expenses must be essential to the safety/well-being of the student or required for the student to make academic progress toward degree requirements. These expenses may include, but are not limited to, the following needs:

  • Repair or replacement of damaged or stolen academic technology

  • Unanticipated or emergency medical expenses (up to 50% of out-of-pocket cost for allowable expenses). 

  • Temporary housing for displacement due to fire, flood, or other unforeseen circumstances

  • Travel costs related to unexpected crisis or death in the immediate family. Documentation such as an obituary or official notice of death may be required. 

  • Selected expenses related to COVID-19

  • Other unanticipated and urgent needs as appropriate 

Funding will not generally be awarded to support the following expenses:   

  • Regular expenses related to the cost of attendance (including tuition, fees, housing, and educational supplies).

  • Expenses for periods in which the student is on leave or not enrolled in the University, including post-graduation costs. 

  • Expenses incurred by someone other than the student 

  • Scholarly and professional conference attendance

  • Fees related to post-graduation employment, i.e., licensure fees, OPT fees, etc.

  • Costs associated with moving to or away from the Philadelphia area

  • Loan repayment or credit card debt

  • Ongoing living expenses, utilities / food expenses: students may be able to receive short term assistance in cases of true emergency. Students experiencing an immediate financial emergency impacting their housing or health should contact Student Intervention Services right away.

  • Purchase of new technology or replacement of old technology

For circumstances that may not qualify for this program, other funding and loans may be available.  Your financial aid officer can provide additional information. Additional information about financial assistance programs and free or low-cost services and discounts available to those with financial need can be found on the Grad Center Graduate Funding page.  

Undergraduate students looking for emergency assistance should go to the VPUL Undergraduate Emergency & Opportunity Fund.

Eligibility
  • The fund is open to currently enrolled degree-seeking graduate and professional students.

    • Students enrolled in accelerated degree/submatriculation programs who have not yet received their bachelor's degree are not eligible. These students should seek assistance from the VPUL Emergency & Opportunity Fund.

    • Full-time staff members enrolled in graduate level coursework or programs are not eligible.

  • Costs must be incurred while the student is enrolled in a degree-granting graduate or professional degree program. Costs incurred during a previous academic year are not eligible.

  • The student should intend to continue in the degree program once the emergency is resolved.

  • Recipients are required to provide documentation of the actual or estimated cost(s) and use of the funds.

  • All applicants will be expected to have pursued other funding opportunities including grants, loans, and reasonable employment.

  • Students from the following schools should apply to through their school-based emergency fund process: Law, Nursing, Social Policy & Practice, and Design. Additional details about this process below.

If a student is unsure about or would like to discuss their eligibility, they should contact mastroie@upenn.edu.

 

School-Based Emergency Funding 
Some graduate and professional schools have distinct sources and processes for emergency funds. Students from the following schools should apply for these funds first rather than the Graduate Emergency Fund. Your school will refer your case to the Graduate Emergency Fund committee if necessary, so you do not need to fill out this form.

Application and Review Process

Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis by a committee comprised of staff from Student Intervention Services, Penn First Plus, Student Financial Services, and the Office of the Provost. All decisions by the committee are final. 

The GEF application process involves a few steps:

  • The student submits a complete application, including any supporting documentation
  • Student may be asked to schedule a one-on-one meeting or call with SIS staff member to review the application and discuss related issues. 
  • Grant team meets weekly to review applications
  • Student typically notified of a decision following the weekly funding meeting. The average time from application to notification of a decision is 2 weeks.

Funding priority will be given based on the urgency of the situation, level of hardship, and the student’s overall financial situation. Depending on the situation, students may be referred to additional resources including financial aid to explore loan options.

We try to exhaust every avenue of support we have available to a student, whether financial or otherwise, in the outcome of a case. All applicants receive individual guidance and support from the team in identifying any resources available to them, regardless of the funding decision.

Grant Conditions and Disbursement
  • Funding is not guaranteed. Funds are disbursed as resources allow, with priority given to the students with unexpected expenses based on the urgency of the situation and level of hardship presented.  

  • Grants are awarded in amounts up to $1000. The average award is $500.

  • Grants may be taxable. You are responsible for reporting the grant income and paying applicable taxes. Depending on your tax status, taxes may be withheld prior to the grant disbursement. 

  • Grant funds must be used for the purposes specified in your award notification. 

  • Students receiving funds for new purchases will be asked to provide receipts within 30 days of fund disbursement. Failure to provide requested documentation will result in grant funds being rescinded. 

  • Students receiving federal student loans: You are responsible for contacting Student Financial Services for a budget re-evaluation if you receive the grant. Students can submit a request for a budget increase if they wish to receive their full loan amount in addition to the grant. 

  • If you provide misleading or falsified information or supporting documentation during the application process, any grant funds will be rescinded and you will be referred to the Office of Student Conduct. This extends to the use of grant funds for purposes other than those specified.

How to Apply

Students may not apply more than twice per academic year to the Emergency Fund. Typically, students will not receive support more than once per academic year. 

A complete application includes the following:

  • Online Application Form

  • A completed Financial Disclosure Form (PDF, opens in new tab)

  • Supporting Documentation, as applicable (upload here):

    • Documentation of cost:  detailed invoice, bill, or other documentation of the expense.

    • Students requesting reimbursement for prior purchases: Proof of payment for any purchases or payments you are reporting. Documentation should include the payment date, purchaser name, and an itemized list of items purchased with cost. 

The Financial Disclosure Form and any supporting documentation should be submitted as soon as possible after you submit the online application form. Upload documents into this online document submission form and include “Graduate Emergency Fund Documentation” in the Message field.

Applicants should provide as much detail as needed for reviewers to understand and evaluate their situation and needs. You may be asked to provide additional documentation or information needed to evaluate your request.

We are committed to ensuring the security of your information. We have put in place reasonable physical, technical, and administrative safeguards designed to prevent unauthorized access to, or use of, the information collected online. 

Contact / Questions

To discuss your situation and eligibility for the fund, please contact Anita Mastroieni at mastroie@upenn.edu or Meredith Wooten at mwooten@upenn.edu with the subject line "Graduate Emergency Fund Question." 

Any student experiencing financial need is encouraged to contact a Financial Aid counselor through SFS or their school Financial Aid office. Staff can provide guidance and advice in navigating additional financial resources that may be available to you. Students experiencing significant stress or feelings impacting your personal well-being are also encouraged to contact CAPS and/or to take advantage of resources on the CAPS website.

Students experiencing an immediate financial emergency impacting their housing or health should contact Student Intervention Services right away.

Repayment

The award does not require repayment. However, to replenish the fund and ensure that future students can receive the same benefit, we encourage awardees to support graduate emergency grants with a donation when they are able.