By: Ashley Neckel | @ashley_neckel
Last spring, Cal Poly Pomona announced its plan to disburse a one-time emergency grant of nearly $15.5 million to students as part of the federal government’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF), assisting several thousand students returning to campus this fall.
The COVID-19 pandemic’s impact over the last few months has produced several challenges for college students. Unemployment, stimulus checks, and general fiscal setbacks have found their way as frequent topics of conversation for CPP students as of late.
Jessica Wagoner, senior associate vice president of enrollment management and services, explained that the method of allocation differed from university to university.
“The chancellor’s office provided some guidelines to all the campuses and what they recommended as a distribution model,” Said Wagoner. “(Coley) wanted to make sure that every student on this campus had an opportunity to get some CARES funding if they were impacted by COVID-19. That is not a common model. I think we’re alone with this, actually.”
According to an email sent by Wagoner, the university awarded larger portions of funds to prioritized students who already displayed financial need. Financial need was then determined by students’ Expected Family Contribution (EFC) as well as by part-time or full-time enrollment status.
Students were divided into four groups based on EFC.
- Group one had an EFC of $0 to $4,000. Full-time students received $1,000 and part-time students received $650.
- Group two had an EFC of $4001 to $8,000. Full-time students received $650 and part-time students received $350.
- Group three had an EFC of over $8,000. Full-time students received $300 and part-time students received $200.
- Group four were those who had not yet filed for Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Full-time students received $250 and part-time students received $200.
The CARES Act does is not available for distribution to undocumented or international students. However, the university created an emergency fund that mirrors the CARES Act distribution to provide financial relief to undocumented students. Eligibility is based on whether students have filed a California Dream Act Application (CADAA).
As of Aug. 13, the university has directly distributed $14.5 million to 18,753 students. The remaining funds were dispersed to students through the Broncos Care Basic Needs program by an application process. As of Aug. 20, the application for these specific funds is closed, but the usual application for basic needs assistance remains open.
For many students, this one-time disbursement was a life saver and it proved to be of incredible help in this time of need.
Second-year transfer student and sociology major Regina Gutierrez received $1,000 from the allocation. Gutierrez was able to purchase new tires without financial consequence, even having enough money remaining to assist with bills.
“I had just gotten notice my job wasn’t going to reopen and I had blown a tire that same week and when I went to the tire shop, they told me I had to replace all four due to regular wear,” Gutierrez said.
Third year engineering student Brian Lee received $1,000 from the disbursement, and was appreciative of the way the university allocated the funds.
“When the school went virtual, I decided to move back with my parents. A lot of my disbursement went toward paying the early leave fee for cancelling the lease at my apartment,” said Lee, “I think our school handled it well considering we were all getting used to the transition online, so it was nice not having to fill out any applications or paperwork. As long as everyone received something, I’m happy.”
However, some feel that the situation could have been handled differently.
“I feel like our hands were pretty tied because the school did it,” said third-year business management student Jaden Ta. “It was more convenient that we didn’t have to fill out an application per se, but I feel like if we did it manually it would have been more personalized or at least have the option to appeal the amount or something. But you know, free money is free money.”
Ta received $300 from the disbursement, most of which went toward gas moving back to her hometown after the university went virtual back in March.
Overall, the disbursement reached its goal by bringing some financial leniency to students in this time of need. Currently, there is talk at the federal level of passing a second stimulus bill. This leads to the possibility of the university to follow suit with a similar funding program.
The CARES grant report published Aug. 13 can be found on https://www.cpp.edu/safety/csu-cares/report.shtml.
More information and the application for the Broncos Care Basic Needs Program can be found https://www.cpp.edu/basicneeds/index.shtml.
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