Assistance Sought for MSU West Plains Students Affected by Floods

May 11, 2017

Students at Missouri State University West Plains who suffered losses during recent flooding may be eligible for financial help through the MSU system’s Emergency Scholarship Fund.

“Our Springfield colleagues reached out to us and said that they wanted to make sure that we understood that the West Plains students were eligible for this scholarship,” said Dr. Drew Bennett, chancellor of the West Plains campus.

The fund was established to provide aid to students who face an unexpected crisis that limits their ability to meet their educational financial requirements. According to Bennett, it provides about $250 that can go towards either books or tuition. The fund was first created following the Joplin tornado.

Currently, the Missouri State University Foundation is seeking additional donations for the fund. As of Thursday afternoon, donations had eclipsed 50 percent of the $5,000 goal.

“That’s the whole purpose of this scholarship fund is to help them in this time of emergency, so you know we want as many students to be successful as possible,” Bennett said.

The West Plains campus was forced to close for five days because of flooding. While damage to campus was minimized due to its high elevation, many roads, bridges, and other infrastructure throughout the city were severely damaged. The first night of flooding, some 150 people sought shelter away from their homes.

Campus infrastructure that did sustain damage include the GOCAT facility and Grizzly Lofts - which the university leases as part of a public-private partnership. Flooding at the apartment complex, which houses 79 students, required an emergency evacuation of the building. Yet Bennett says these building will be operational again soon.

“Both of those buildings we expect to be ready for occupation and classes in the fall. All of our programs are intact, and we’ll be fully operational in the fall.”

The damage was the result of weather events beginning April 29, when West Plains received over nine inches of rain in a six-hour period.

While Bennett does not know the total amount of students impacted, he notes that that about 50 percent of its students are from West Plains and Howell County, the areas most affected by flooding. As a result, these students have potentially lost homes, cars, textbooks, laptops, and other property.

“Obviously that qualifies them as being in an emergency status, and then they can use the $250 if they’re approved toward their bill,” says Bennett.

The Missouri State University campus in Springfield provided dispatch services during the flooding, and is continuing to offer support to enable smooth operations in West Plains.

“I sit on the administrative council in Springfield, and virtually every one of the administrative council members has reached out to me.”

According to Bennett, officials have also worked with the school on legal matters, and are even helping West Plains’ students with taking classes in Springfield.

Bennett says that emails and letters have been sent out to faculty and students detailing what their options are for the rest of the semester.