By Isabella Cano, April 6, 2021
Cal Poly Pomona is one of the last California State University campuses to announce its student distribution model for the federal coronavirus relief aid passed last December. On March 25, the university administration informed the student body via email of its distribution plan for $15.5 million from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund II that would take effect in early April.
Jessica Wagoner, senior associate vice president of Enrollment Management & Services, highlighted notable differences between the policies of the HEERF I and HEERF II.
“The grants this time are higher than they were with the first CARES Act, so with this round of stimulus we were able to award a little more to help students in need but the difference with this one is that the legislation specifically states that we have to give priority to those students with exceptional need and that’s usually defined as Pell eligible,” said Wagoner.
Following the federal guidelines of prioritizing students with “exceptional need”, the university’s eligibility model utilizes Estimated Family Contribution, a figure provided by filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, to categorize students into five separate groups.
Part-time and full-time students were grouped from lowest to highest Estimated Family Contribution, signifying most to least financial need:
● Group one has an EFC of $0 and is considered Pell eligible. Full-time students will receive $1,200 and part-time will receive $800.
● Group two has an EFC range of $1-$5,711 and is considered Pell eligible. Full-time students will receive $1,000 and part-time students will receive $650.
● Group three has an EFC range of $5,712-$12,744. Full-time students will receive $750 and part time students will receive $400.
● Group four has an EFC above $12,744. Full-time students will receive $500 while part-time will receive $300. NOTE: While groups one through three are set to automatically receive their aid, group four must submit an application on an upcoming CPP webpage in order to claim their funds.
● Group five does not have an EFC due to not filing the FAFSA. These students must file the FAFSA in order to determine their EFC and be placed in another group.
Because the HEERF II is a federal emergency relief fund, it is not available to undocumented or international students.
Selene Santana, a fourth year plant science student and DACA recipient, recounted the bittersweet experience she underwent when opening the distribution email from the Office of Student Affairs.
“When I first read it, I was really glad that some of my friends I see struggling a lot during this time will get some much needed help from the school,” said Santana. “I just wish I was one of them.”
As of now, there is not an official federal relief plan for these students, though there is one “in the works” for undocumented students using institutional and state funding, according to Wagoner.
“We are planning the exact same thing as last time with the CARES. We just need time to get the institutional money in place and I’m hoping by early April we will be able to communicate it to our undocumented students,” said Wagoner. “With international students it’s a little trickier…It’s much more of a challenge and I can’t put a timeline on that right now.”
While some students are relieved to receive extra assistance from the university at all, Favian Rodriguez, a third-year biochemistry student, believes the delay in aid dispersal failed many struggling students, especially those experiencing food and housing insecurity due to the pandemic.
“If you dig through Reddit, you will find there are posts of students who are on the verge of becoming homeless and some that have actually become homeless at this time. If they had access to these funds sooner it could have given them some sort of security while they figure out how to deal with their situation,” said Rodriguez. “It even compromises their academic performance; they might have failed their whole semester because of it. That’s tragic.”
In order to distribute the funds efficiently, targeted emails containing detailed instructions for acquiring the aid will be sent out to students based on their respective groups within the coming week, according to Enrollment Management & Services. Given the recency of the allocation announcement, CPP will continue to award aid to students via direct deposit or mailed check throughout the month of April.
More information regarding CPP’s distribution of both Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds can be found on the Safer Return website.
Feature image courtesy of Travis Essinger.
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