Millions of Americans were anxiously awaiting the arrival of stimulus checks this weekend as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tweeted
checks have hit eligible checking accounts in record time. However, there’s one audience the unprecedented stimulus checks did not reach--college students. Many students are claimed as dependents on their parent’s 2018 tax returns, yet they are still seeking a financial safety net from campus closures and job loss due to the Coronavirus.
College students have not been overlooked by the United States government. A $6.28 billion, cash grant total was announced last week in a U.S. Department of Education press release
. Under this new order colleges are required to use the cash grant funding to help students with expenses such as:
• Course materials
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*In an April 21 press release, Secretary DeVos announced U.S. colleges will receive an additional $6.2 billion. The updated higher-education contribution per the CARES Act now totals more than $12 billion.
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It’s up to the individual colleges to determine which students will receive the emergency grants and to create a cash distribution plan. The totals distributed to each applicable university vary and are set by a government determined formula. The U.S. Department of Education adds, “[the formula] is weighted significantly by the number of full-time students who are Pell-eligible but also takes into consideration the total population of the school and the number of students who were not enrolled full-time online before the Coronavirus outbreak.” If interested, you can look up your college's approved emergency-grant total
In a letter
to college and university presidents, United States Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, addresses the importance of getting money into the hands of college students impacted by COVID-19, education disruptions—stressing a minimum of 50 percent of the funds accolated to each college and university is to be strictly used for emergency student aid.
DeVos’ letter adds, “I would like to encourage the leadership of each institution to prioritize your students with the greatest need, but at the same time consider establishing a maximum funding threshold for each student to ensure that these funds are distributed as widely as possible.”
How Can I Access an Emergency Cash Grant from My College?
Still in the early stages of the emergency cash grant announcement, it’s likely lead university administrators are in the beginning stages of formulating a distribution plan for their financial aid office.
If you’re a student that has been impacted financially from the pandemic, you should reach out to your college’s financial aid office. Your financial aid office should be able to provide you a timeline as to how to claim emergency grant funding, and when you may expect compensation, if you meet your college's eligibility requirements.
The cash grants are the first wave of benefits from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act
. This nearly $14 billion Act, signed into law on March 27 by President Donald Trump, was designed to provide emergency financial aid flexibility and protection for college students.
In addition to emergency cash grants, the measure protects college students by:
• Adding flexibility to universities, emergency financial aid funds and more student access.
• Guaranteeing federal work-study students, the financial aid wages they would have been paid.
• Ensuring new grading formats (pass/fail) do not affect your financial aid eligibility.
Communication, Patience are Key
The most important advice we can offer is to keep your communication lines open. The reality is this is stressful. We’re all scrambling to manage this world-wide pandemic together.
Most colleges have developed Coronavirus web pages to provide students with the latest information, common financial aid questions and resources. Stay aware of the latest information, by checking your school’s website and social media accounts daily.
Remain patient as top-level college administrators and financial aid professionals, are diligently processing urgent federal adjustments and regulating new processes to help their students stay in school and have access to essentials.
Be kind and understanding as you ask for financial emergency grant help or advice. Stay transparent. The more honest you are about your situation, the more likely that you’ll get the help you need.