CARY, N.C. – A college student on Thursday said without some extra financial help, her degree would have been delayed.

Sabrina Sols is studying for a degree through Western Governors University. She lost her job earlier this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She took a retail job for a while but ultimately decided it was safer to focus on her studies.

Sols has a weakened immune system and recently had surgery, so she is at increased risk for infection.

Sols already received some financial aid through WGU. When the online nonprofit expanded its emergency aid program for students, she applied for some extra help. She got $1,000, money that went toward moving to a smaller apartment and buying a large supply of non-perishable food.

“Most of it was for food,” she says. “We also bought dog food. It helped us with that, and it helped us with the move so that we could get here, because otherwise, we would not have been able to get here.”

WGU officials said Sols is one of 156 of its students in North Carolina and 4,000 nationwide to receive non-tuition aid.

Shaw University launched a similar program when the pandemic began.

Financial Aid Director Ibrahim Bah said such aid can be used for anything from food to housing and utilities. He said three-fourths of Shaw's students are eligible for Pell Grants, which are based on financial need, so any additional hardship can jeopardize their ability to remain in college.

After the pandemic ends, Bah says he expects many universities will continue such programs.

UNC-Chapel Hill and NC State have set up their own emergency aid programs in addition to Shaw and WGU. In each case, faculty and alumni can contribute as well as members of the general public.

Sols says the aid means she will be able to focus on finishing her degree this semester. She says working and studying at the same time would reduce the course load she can take, thus forcing her to spend more time working on her degree.