Keep Learning Fund

My NIU story is not unique.

Students today face the same challenges that you and I faced during our college years. We all struggled with limited resources, trying to pay tuition, purchasing books or supplies (today it’s called technology) and meeting our financial requirements each month.

I grew up with parents who attended college (University of Illinois and University of Akron). However, no one ever pushed me to go. Even then tuition and room and board were expensive, and with five kids maybe it was just a little too much to manage. But I was not going to let that stand in my way. So, like many others, I worked hard, saved the money and I paid for college myself. It was a struggle, but I managed and was so very proud of my NIU degree.

After graduating and working for several years, I decided to continue my education and entered graduate school at Boston University. Again, as this was my choice, I financed it myself through traditional educational loans. And predictably, in short order, I ran out of money and went looking for a part-time job. I got a job, but I still struggled. I went and got a second job and a third. Eventually, it was four part-time jobs plus a full load at graduate school. My 20-hour days were full — 6 to 2 a.m. — but I managed.

What a schedule! I look back now and am amazed that I survived it all. Once again, I was so very proud of my achievement. Then it was time to head back to Chicago and start a new life chapter. But having to scrape by each month in Boston, who has the ready cash to move? Boston University had a very special “student emergency fund.” I told them my story and they financed a kick-start stipend of $500 to rent a truck so I could pack up and drive home. What a relief! What a great benefit! Their anticipation of student needs pushed me over the top allowing me to jump-start my career.

At NIU, so many of our students can share their same story. The details will change but the basics remain true. They lost their part-time job during the pandemic. They need that business book. Or worse, they need money for a warm meal to get through finals. Whatever it is, the need is as real for them as it was for you and me.

Do you have a story like this? I think many of us do.

At NIU we have our Keep Learning Fund. It’s designed to be a safety net for students. And with your help, it can do something special for our students. We’re asking for a knowing word and the desire to reach out with us.

You can help by getting the word out — through your network of contacts and as a friend of NIU — that our Keep Learning Fund crowdfunding effort is underway. Tell them your student survival story. Share how you made it happen and why. Share your success and let them know that we have a crowdfunding campaign underway — maybe even kick in a couple of bucks yourself! The whole point of crowdfunding is simple: Small amounts of money from many people turn into a large fund to help a whole lot of NIU students who need it most.

With gratitude,

Cass Young

Director of Alumni Relations

NIU, College of Business

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