When the UNI Foundation launched a fundraising campaign last week for a new scholarship to help students facing financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the response was powerful. 

Within a few days more than 500 people donated a combined $50,000 for the new UNItogether Scholarship, which will help mitigate tuition costs for new and returning students. 

“We wanted to do all we could to assist students who have been financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic,” said Sarah Parsons, UNI’s director of advancement communications. “We were so thankful the Panther family stepped up for our students.” 

“Thanks to these donors, we'll be able to keep students impacted financially by the COVID-19 pandemic on the path to graduation, and that's something to celebrate.”

Donors included Jennifer Zehner, who graduated from UNI just last year with an elementary education degree and is now working as a special education teacher in Cedar Falls. Zehner said in an email that she couldn’t imagine the stress college students were now facing in a world upended by the outbreak and wanted to help. 

The alumni community had supported her as she earned her degree, and Zehner said she wanted to pay it forward. 

“This is the first time I am able to really start giving back to the place that completely changed my life,” she said. 

Funds were raised as part of #GivingTuesdayNow, a national day of giving last week in response to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Students can apply for UNItogether scholarship funding by filing a special circumstances appeal with the Office of Financial Aid & Scholarships. Information on the process is available at https://finaid.uni.edu/special-circumstances.