By Alexander Osornio, Sept. 7, 2021

Cal Poly Pomona is preparing its fall distribution of $42.5 million of direct student aid received by the university from the latest Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund III law, following an initial round of distribution over the summer.

A key difference between the most recent funds and the two previous HEERF allocations is that undocumented students will also be eligible to receive the federal funds, according to U.S. Department of Education guidance. Automatic grants will be distributed to students as long as they display “exceptional need,” a metric defined according to Pell eligibility from each student’s 2021 FAFSA or California Dream Act Application.

Mecir A. Ureta Rivera, senior coordinator for Undocumented Student Services, helped undocumented students receive aid last year after the university allocated its own emergency funds to undocumented and international students to coincide with HEERF I and II distribution. Rivera described the distribution of those emergency funds as “a collective effort,” between the Bronco Dreamers Resource Center, the Offices of Financial Aid and Scholarships and Admissions and Enrollment Management & Services.

Rivera is hopeful that the latest HEERF bill will help undocumented students with receiving these new funds. “It’s a relief for the students when they can get the money in a timely manner,” Rivera added.

Undocumented students can receive assistance from the Bronco Dreamers Resource Center (Alexander Osornio | The Poly Post)

Another major difference between the latest law is the increase in funds received by the university. While HEERF I allocated $30.9 million to the university and HEERF II provided $48.6 million, HEERF III, part of the American Rescue Plan, brings $85.1 million to CPP with special emphasis on assisting students with “exceptional need.”

Jessica Wagoner, senior associate vice president of Enrollment Management & Services, managed the rollout of the two previous relief funds and said the most recent $85.1 million came at an “awkward time.” The campus received the latest funds, more than half of which were designated for direct student aid, in the summer before students were enrolled for the fall semester.

Wagoner said these developments led to the first round of distribution happening over the summer to “make sure this money got into the hands of students as soon as possible.”

Emergency grants of $1,391 were allocated to 3,175 students enrolled in the summer term displaying “exceptional need.” This dollar amount was determined according to the 2021 cost of attendance for one month for room and board as determined by the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships.

As for the second round of distribution this fall, Wagoner anticipates students to be notified of incoming automatic grants within the next month. While funds will be prioritized for students who show “exceptional need,” other students who show “high need” — defined as being Cal Grant eligible on financial aid applications — will also be eligible for automatic grants from HEERF III.

In addition to automatic grants, students will be able to submit applications to receive additional aid. These applications are planned to remain open through December.

Charles Conn, associate director at the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships, stressed the importance for student awareness of application grants in addition to automatic grants. “The financial aid application is good for certain things, but it has its limitations,” he said.

One requirement for HEERF III is for institutions to do promotional and outreach campaigns to students to encourage them to apply for additional aid.

Conn said that the university is developing a campus-wide promotional campaign in order to make students aware of the application process.

“We are really wanting to make sure, more so than in the past, that no one has the excuse, ‘I didn’t know,’” Conn added.

Students can contact the Bronco Dreamers Resource Center at Building 26, Room 101 at University Plaza, or online at its website and Instagram.

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