US: University sets up scholarship to support gay students and straight allies

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A US university has set up a fund to help out gay students who struggle financially after rejection from their families after coming out, as well as straight students who lose funding after supporting gay classmates.

The University of Missouri-Kansas City has set up the PRIDE Empowerment Scholarship in order to help gay students pay bills, as well as straight students who are cut off after voicing support for the LGBT community.

The Kansas City Star reported that one student, Caleb-Michael Files, 21, would not have been able to return to school if it wasn’t for a $2,000 (£1,300) payment for each semester from the fund.

“Gay students, especially, have issues with coming out and support,” he said. “My parents aren’t in the picture. My guardians aren’t in the picture.”

He went on to say that he thought he would have to work 60 to 80 hours a week without the scholarship. He said: “I would not be doing as well academically as I am this semester”. He went on to say that the other two recipients this year had been cut off from their families.

Each student’s situation is assessed individually, and the amount they receive is dependant on their situation, reports the Associated Press.

Kristi Ryujin, the university’s assistant vice chancellor for diversity said: “This year was the greatest need we’ve seen… We have a long way to go still.”

“It’s really a scooping up and holding of the students, making sure they have the financial and personal support mechanisms they need to be successful,” she said.

She said her office also monitored the students to ensure they were able to take advantage of on-campus resources, such as counselling.

Eight scholarships have been awarded since the program was created four years ago, after university officials noted that gay students sometimes struggled financially after coming out.

The university also has a Pride Alliance student group and an LGBT resource centre.