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Rutgers receives more than $3 million to support students impacted by pandemic, address food insecurity

Rutgers—Newark was awarded the most money out of the three campuses, receiving $1.5 million in Opportunity Meets Innovation Challenge grants and $100,000 in Hunger-Free grants. – Photo by Rutgers-Newark / Twitter

Rutgers was recently awarded more than $3 million in federal funding across its three campuses to aid students in their recovery from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and help address student hunger, according to a press release

This funding is part of a larger effort announced by Gov. Murphy (D-N.J.) on Monday that provided over $30 million to public and public-mission private institutions of higher education across New Jersey in support of the State Plan for Higher Education and COVID-19 relief for college students.

A large portion of the funding, $28.5 million, came from the U.S. Department of Education through the competitive grant program called the “Opportunity Meets Innovation Challenge” (OMIC), and will be spread across 35 institutions statewide. 

Rutgers—Newark was awarded $1.5 million in OMIC grant funding, with Rutgers—Camden receiving $875,520 and Rutgers—New Brunswick receiving approximately $638,102.

This grant will be used to fund initiatives that increase college completion rates, create lasting systemic reforms and address barriers to success, according to the release. Historically disadvantaged students, including low-income, underrepresented minority and working-age adult students, will be a main focus given the disproportional impact the pandemic has had on them.

“The OMIC grant will enable us to launch new initiatives to improve retention and cultivate research, innovation and talent,” said Rutgers—Camden Chancellor Antonio D. Tillis, according to an article from Rutgers Today. “We will track the efficacy of our efforts to make certain that we are delivering the outcomes that our students so richly deserve.” 

Initiatives that institutions may implement include expanding dual enrollment programs to help low-income students, increasing support programs that address obstacles to student retention, such as childcare or food insecurity, as well as free programs to help first-generation and Pell-eligible students transition to college.

Other initiatives may include expanding mental health services and peer mentor programs for students, as well as focusing on student success in courses such as math to support achievement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields, according to the release.

In addition to OMIC funding, the state provided more than $1 million to 11 public institutions through the “Hunger-Free Campus Grant Program” in order to help them address food insecurity among their students, according to the release. This effort is part of the “Hunger-Free Campus Act,” which was enacted by Murphy in 2019.

Rutgers—Newark was awarded $100,000 and Rutgers—New Brunswick was awarded $99,647 in Hunger-Free grants.

“Food insecurity affects far too many university students across New Jersey and the nation,” said Rutgers—New Brunswick Chancellor-Provost Francine Conway, according to the article. “Our commitment to addressing this issue includes innovative and novel programming to connect our students with the resources they need to succeed and thrive.”

In addition to addressing student hunger, this funding will be used to create more sustainable solutions to basic food needs, raise awareness of current services and continue to form partnerships on local, state and national levels to combat student food insecurity. 

“Our institutions of higher education have provided a high quality of education to our students throughout the pandemic, despite challenging circumstances,” Murphy said. “Supporting our institutions will continue to be a priority as they work to provide an equitable educational experience for students, prepare them for the jobs of the future and meet challenges ahead.”

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