Delta Dental of Tennessee Donates $110,000 to Universities for Student Hardship Funding Grants

Student support resources at many Tennessee higher education institutions have been stretched by COVID-19 emergencies 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – (February 09, 2022) – Delta Dental of Tennessee (Delta Dental) today announced $110,000 in collective donations to Tennessee college and university student emergency funding grant programs. During the pandemic, many colleges and universities have expanded student hardship or emergency grant pools to support a growing number of students with last-minute needs around travel, technology, and housing, as well as those who lost work-study jobs or other employment opportunities.

“Gifts to student emergency funds provide a margin of support that has literally enabled some students to remain in school as opposed to being forced to drop out due to insufficient resources,” said Kerry Witcher, President and CEO of the UT Foundation. “We are extremely grateful to Delta Dental of Tennessee for their support of student emergency needs across the UT system.”

Emergency funding grants allow schools the flexibility to meet students’ needs as they evolve, within certain parameters. Eligible students must have demonstrated need through financial aid applications, and awards are often capped. Austin Peay State University (APSU) plans to use its contribution from Delta Dental as the lead matching gift to encourage donations to its student assistance fund, The Govs Give Back Fund, during an online fundraising campaign this spring.

The Govs Give Back Fund, administered through the school’s food pantry, supports APSU students, faculty and staff who are facing unexpected financial hardship due to non-routine auto expenses, medical expenses, childcare expenses, disability expenses, and computer problems. After receiving support funds, applicants are highly encouraged, but not required, to volunteer at the APSU food pantry. The food pantry, located in APSU’s Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement, was busier than ever in 2021, reporting a 74% increase in overall visits and a 65% increase in first-time users over 2020.

“We are thrilled to receive this significant contribution from Delta Dental of Tennessee,” APSU President Mike Licari said. “I want to thank them and their team for supporting our students in such a powerful way. I am proud to say that this will serve as the lead gift for APSU’s Save Our Students (S.O.S.) Food Pantry and the Center for Service-Learning and Community Engagement during our upcoming Govs Give online fundraising campaign. Both before and during the pandemic, this fund has assisted APSU students with valuable resources such as food, clothing and other essential items they need. With this gift, the fund will continue to serve current and future Govs as they work to earn their degrees.”

Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) will also use its gift from Delta Dental to leverage matching donations from alumni, friends, and staff members to the school’s student emergency fund during its “True Blue Give” fundraising campaign February 14, 15, and 16.

The funding quickly proved critical for “JA,” a senior in MTSU’s Jones College of Business, who noted: “I recently had a baby in October while completing my program here at MTSU, and let’s just say it wasn’t easy. My financial, physical, and academic realities were significantly affected. Your generosity made it possible to register for my last class this semester.”

At the heart of Delta Dental’s commitment to students is the company’s longstanding support of Tennessee’s two dental colleges, Meharry Medical College and the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) College of Dentistry. UTHSC named its new dental building for Delta Dental in recognition of the company’s leadership as the dental school’s largest donor; the company was also a significant funder of Meharry’s cutting-edge training lab for dental students.

“Giving back to the communities we serve is a key part of our mission at Delta Dental, and we are happy to be able to support students across the state who are continuing to pursue their education in the face of the many difficult and unexpected challenges of the last two years,” said Dr. Phil Wenk, CEO and President of Delta Dental of Tennessee.

To learn more about Delta Dental’s philanthropic work across Tennessee, visit the Smile180 Foundation website.

Delta Dental of Tennessee
Delta Dental of Tennessee is the state’s largest independent dental benefits carrier with more than 1.2 million lives covered. As part of the Delta Dental Plans Association, Delta Dental of Tennessee members have access to the largest dental network in the nation with more than 154,000 providers serving more than 437,000 locations. With the simple mission of ensuring healthy smiles, Delta Dental of Tennessee works hard to help members of the communities it serves. Along with its corporate foundation, Smile180, Delta Dental of Tennessee donated more than $5.4 million in funding and in-kind services to over 130 organizations in 2021.