University of Iowa students start mutual aid organization to help other struggling students

A new organization at the University of Iowa aims to help students pay for basic necessities like food or rent.
Published: Apr. 21, 2021 at 5:19 AM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - A new organization started by University of Iowa students aims to help struggling students make ends meet.

Sydney Uhlman is a sophomore at the University of Iowa and is one of the cofounders of the UIowa Mutual Aid Network. Uhlman says she grew up in the Iowa foster care system, so she understands how struggling students feel.

She says the pandemic is shedding light on the amount of students struggling to make ends meet, saying there are resources on campus to help, but not enough, especially during a pandemic. That’s why Uhlman helped launch the organization at the end of March.

She said it’s already gotten 100 requests for help, and 97 of those requests came in the first week the organization launched. Students can use the money to pay for things like groceries, rent, or even textbooks.

Uhlman says they’ve been able to help around 30 students so far, and the biggest request has been for groceries.

She says there is a food pantry on campus at the University of Iowa, but limited hours impact accessibility for some students.

The second most requested need has been for rental assistance.

“Iowa City rent is outrageous. So many students are struggling to afford places to live, so that was probably our second most common request for aid,” Uhlman said.

The mutual aid network has received around $1,000 in donations, which has already been dispersed. Students can request up to $50 each time.

Uhlman says when requesting help, students can also specify if their need is urgent. She adds that 12 people volunteer to help run the UIowa Mutual Aid Network.

“You know there’s a lot that’s not reflected in people who are on financial aid. A lot of students might be still in need, but maybe their financial aid doesn’t reflect that... students from families that don’t support them,” Uhlman said.

Uhlman said will be a three-week gap in the summer between when her current lease ends and a new one begins. That leaves her without housing.

She says she reached out to the university about help finding a place to stay during this gap, but they didn’t have a solution for her. She hopes the network can help students like her in times of need.

The organization is also working to make food and hygiene products more accessible on campus.

Students can find a request for help form here.

Those interested in donating can make a donation through Venmo @uiowamutualaid or scanning the QR code below.

Those interesting in making a donation to the student-run organization can do so by scanning...
Those interesting in making a donation to the student-run organization can do so by scanning this QR code.(KCRG)

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