On 22 April 2020, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore), unveiled the NTU COVID-19 Relief Package. Comprising three new coordinated measures to assist students facing hardship due to the pandemic, the Package included the NTU Priorities Fund. The NTU Priorities Fund was established with an initial sum of S$100,000, a personal gift by NTU President Professor Subra Suresh and his wife, Mary Suresh. Prof Suresh is a firm believer in paying it forward, as a beneficiary of such a philanthropic scheme previously, without which he says he could not have pursued his postgraduate education in the United States.
Driven by private philanthropy, the NTU Priorities Fund addresses urgent needs identified by the University’s leadership and its first use is to offer financial assistance to the neediest NTU students from Singapore and abroad, who were affected by COVID-19 and who have no other recourse for help.
Recipients of support from the Fund will pledge to pay it forward within two years after graduation and return the interest-free cash assistance to the University. By nurturing this evergreen fund as a university resource to benefit future generations of students, NTU aims to perpetuate the cycle of philanthropy so that future students who need assistance can continue to receive financial aid.
Beyond the pandemic, the Fund will be used to bridge digital inequality, a problem highlighted and exacerbated by the intensified use of digital technology for remote learning arrangements and communication during the outbreak.
As of January 2021, close to 400 NTU students have received financial support from the NTU Priorities Fund, with each student receiving up to S$1,500 in an academic year. This was made possible by 2,579 donors who raised a total amount of over S$4.6 million towards the Fund.
Prof Suresh said, “COVID-19 has already caused profound social and economic disruptions across the globe, and these effects have hit close to home too. We have students grappling with sudden loss of family income or find that they no longer have part-time jobs and are worried about their daily lives should the situation continue.
“We will use the new NTU Priorities Fund and other sources of philanthropic support to alleviate the financial burden of our students so that those needing immediate help can continue to focus on their studies and their future.”