SUNY Canton Student Emergency Fund Swells, Helps Students Through Pandemic


The SUNY Canton College Foundation, Inc., received record-breaking donations slated for the college’s Student Emergency Fund allowing it to fill a number of grants during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The SUNY Chancellor’s Office issued a challenge offering a $50,000 match for any campus that could raise $50,000 in a ten-week period from April to June,” said Tracey Thompson, vice president for advancement and executive director of the Canton College Foundation. “With the entire campus community energized and engaged, we successfully met the match.”

Students walk across campus from Kennedy Hall at SUNY Canton.

In all, the fund generated more than $125,000. It also led to significant multi-year gifts and pledges of approximately $15,000 annually. This figure includes a 5-year $25,000 pledge from the Renzi Foodservice Charitable Foundation to help bolster the college’s Renzi Food Pantry, which is operated through the same funding source.

The Student Emergency Fund was established in 2004 through the college’s Student Affairs division. Typically, it would see a handful of requests over the course of an average year. This changed dramatically during the pandemic. The college helped more than 40 students with financial assistance ranging from about $25 to $3,000.

“Students truly appreciate the financial assistance available through the Foundation,” said Courtney B. Bish, vice president for student affairs and dean of students. “Sometimes it takes a relatively small amount of support to help a student stay in college and complete their education.” 

College Foundation representatives received assistance inquiries from students who had lost their jobs and were using unemployment benefits to support their families. They heard from people who had become ill, or who had sick family members and couldn’t work. Students shared personal emergencies from car trouble to computer failure. One student confided they were facing a decision between finishing their final semester and paying their rent.

For every person who shared a hardship, the Canton College Foundation was able to provide an immediate answer, according to Thompson. “We could help them all through the Student Emergency Fund,” she said.

Students walking through the plaza after class.

To date, the Foundation has expended just over $30,000 of the matching funds provided by SUNY Impact Foundation and about $11,000 from local resources. It continues to receive requests.

In addition to numerous responses expressing gratitude for the assistance, several students asked about the nature of the aid they were receiving. They were assured that it was a grant, not a loan, and the best way to repay the favor would be to successfully complete their college degree, go to work in their chosen career, and then donate to help a future student facing financial distress, Thompson said. 


About SUNY Canton

As Northern New York's premier college for career-driven bachelor's degrees, associate degrees and professional certificate programs, SUNY Canton delivers quality hands-on programs in engineering technology, management, and healthcare fields. It is home to the Center for Criminal Justice, Intelligence and Cybersecurity. Faculty members are noted for their professional real-world experience in addition to outstanding academic credentials. As SUNY's leader in online education, SUNY Canton OnLine offers hundreds of flexible and convenient courses as well as 23 online degree programs. The SUNY Canton Kangaroos 15 traditional athletic teams compete at the NCAA Division III level as part of the North Atlantic Conference. SUNY Canton also features varsity esports and cheerleading.