The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law on March 28, following a unanimous Senate vote. In addition to the financial relief for businesses and individuals affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the $2.2 trillion bill will also provide funds for other institutions, including higher education.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, California colleges and universities will receive $1.7 billion out of the $14 billion reserved for the country’s higher education institutions. The California State University (CSU) system’s 23 campuses will receive roughly $525 million ranging from $1.2 million to $45 million per university, depending on student enrollment. According to the U.S. Department of Education, Cal Poly Pomona will receive roughly $31 million.
“Of the amount allocated to each institution under this formula, at least 50 percent must be reserved to provide students with emergency financial aid grants to help cover expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to coronavirus,” Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos stated in a press release on April 9. “We are prioritizing this funding stream in order to get money in the hands of students in need as quickly as possible.”
CPP’s minimum allocation of emergency financial aid grants to students is a little over $15 million, with coronavirus-related expenses including attendance, food and housing.
The university is offering its own emergency fund, which includes up to $500 per student in case of unpredicted emergencies, crises or catastrophic events which might entail displacement or homelessness, uninsured medical emergencies and being a victim of a crime or accident.
“I honestly don’t think it is the responsibility of the school to completely help out the students in this time, so really, giving out $500 and refunds … are good gestures,” third-year mechanical engineering student Matthew Kuykendall said.
“It makes me feel a lot more confident in the school in general that they are not completely scamming us,” Kuykendall said.
The Poly Post reached out to the CPP Office of Financial Aid & Scholarships’ Financial Aid Lead Coordinator Saul Ramirez for a comment regarding the funds, however did not receive a response before publication.
The Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid also announced suspensions on federal student loan payments from March 13 to Sept. 30 and reduced all interest rates during this time period to 0%.
National Public Radio’s breakdown of the bill found that the CARES Act also provides assistance to students who drop out of school due to the pandemic. Lifetime limits on subsidized loan and Pell Grant eligibility for students will not be affected by time spent away from school as a result of dropping out due to the pandemic.
Students who drop out will also not be asked to pay back any grants or other aid that they have already received.
While half of the funds from the CARES Act are mandated for emergency financial assistance to students, the rest of the funding is given to campuses to use at their discretion, such as allocating money for campus operations.
“Campus health centers are still open for people by appointment and for advice or counseling calls, so they need operational money,” CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White said in an interview with nonprofit news organization CalMatters on April 2.
The Student Health and Wellness Center, Centerpointe Dining Commons, Innovation Brew Works, Vista Market, the Farm Store at Kellogg Ranch and the Bronco Bookstore are among the facilities still operating on campus.
“Basically, if (the funds are) going to the right people and (are) not being abused, it’s a good thing,” fourth-year aerospace engineering student Justin Wells said. “If you combine (the grant) with unemployment (benefits) and other programs, I think someone can make ends meet, but only essentials.”
Common spaces, like learning labs and computer labs, are currently closed to prevent social contact, but according to Chancellor White in the CalMatters interview, “some campuses are creating Wi-Fi zones in parking lots and garages so students can log on without congregating in an enclosed space.”
He expects some of the federal funds spent on upgrading technology and assisting programs like this.
“I couldn’t help but think that maybe there was no internet at home, or maybe they need to social distance,” said Academic Retention Coordinator Scott Chang upon recently seeing a student studying at the breezeway under Building 9.
“But regardless, I thought that was a genius idea: to keep the spirit of problem solving alive. I hope that we can all share ideas like this wherever we see them, because (they) could help someone somewhere out there, and it might be just what they need.”
Students can apply for CPP’s Emergency Grant at https://www.cpp.edu/basicneeds/emergency-funds/grants.shtml. For more financial resources, students can contact Broncos Care Basic Needs Services as well as the Office of Financial Aid & Scholarships.
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