On March 27, Congress approved a $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security bill. This bill is known as the CARES Act and aims to provide fast and direct economic assistance for American workers, families and small businesses, as well as to preserve jobs for the American industries.
According to the stimulus bill, about $12.5 billion will go directly to universities and colleges to help them recover from the financial hit of the pandemic. The bill also requires that half of each institution’s total grant amount go directly to students in the form of emergency financial aid grants.
Florida Tech received roughly $3.6 million from the CARES Act, meaning that at least about $1.8 million must be allocated for students in need of emergency funds.
The U.S. Department of Education states only undergraduate and graduate students who are Title IV eligible can be awarded CARES Act emergency funds. This means that students that have filed a 2019-2020 Free Application for Federal Student Aid— FAFSA — are eligible to receive funding. Students who have not filed a FAFSA, but who are eligible to file one, may also receive emergency financial aid grants if they file by June 30, according to the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. Eligibility terms for FAFSA applications can be found here.
Other universities throughout Florida received various amounts of funds from the CARES Act. For example, Saint Leo University received about $4.5 million, Florida Southern College was granted roughly $2.2 million, Lynn University received about $1.9 million and Nova Southeastern University was awarded roughly $7.1 million.
The Department of Education stated that funds distribution per university was based on 75 percent of the institution’s fulltime in-person Pell grant recipients, and 25 percent of those who are not Pell Grant recipients. The calculation excludes international and online enrolled students. The DoE also states that FAFSA forms are used as the application method to determine which undergraduates, who display exceptional financial need, will be awarded a Pell grant.
On behalf of Wes Sumner, Florida Tech’s vice president of marketing and communications, Adam Lowenstein said in an email that Florida Tech plans to distribute the $1.8 million portion of CARES Act funds to students who are eligible as soon as possible.
“According to our preliminary analysis, Florida Tech currently has 1,940 undergraduates eligible for these relief funds,” Lowenstein, director of media communications, said. “We have emailed an additional 337 undergraduates to encourage them to file for FAFSA as we believe they would also be eligible for CARES Act assistance.”
At this point in time, Lowenstein said that a finalized eligible population of students who can receive CARES Act emergency financial aid is still being determined. Lowenstein added that payment amounts on a student-by-student basis will be known once they finalize the entire eligible population of students.
When students are able to receive emergency financial grants from the Cares Act, Lowenstein said they can use them to cover any such expense related to the disruption of campus operations due to the coronavirus such as food, housing, course materials, technology or health care and child-care expenses.
Juan Merced is a freshman majoring in astrobiology, and is one of the 1,940 Florida Tech undergraduates that are eligible for CARES Act relief funds. Merced said that a good portion of his tuition is paid for from the aid he gets as a Pell grant recipient.
According to Merced, the coronavirus has impacted his grades especially. He said that it has been harder for him to learn properly with an online only classroom structure, and as a result he said he is failing some courses.
“Because of how relatively poor I did this semester, I’m at risk for losing some of my scholarships such as my Bright Futures one,” Merced said.
Merced said that losing those scholarships is going to be a “game changer” in terms of how he pays for college.
“I would most likely use any funds I receive for textbooks, food and probably a part of tuition payment for the fall,” Merced said.
The native Floridian added that both his parents are not working right now because of the pandemic. While Merced’s father is still receiving pay, his mother is not and has been unsuccessful in trying to claim unemployment.
“It definitely has been harder lately, ” Merced said. “I didn’t even know I was eligible to receive funds, but if I did get any it would help me pay for my education.”
Lowenstein said that because this funding comes with strict guidelines from the Department of Education, the university wants to deliberate on their distribution while also working as quickly as they can to distribute funds to students who qualify.
“We are determining the best process to do this based on the requirements and plan to initiate disbursements soon,” Lowenstein said.
According to the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, institutions may provide emergency financial aid grants to students by using checks, electronic transfer payments, debit cards and payment apps. However, grant payments may not be made to students through the use of a credit card that can be used only on campus or in a retail outlet affiliated with the institution such as Panther Cash or Flex credits.
Lowenstien added that Florida Tech is evaluating the best uses for the remaining CARES Act funds, and will be happy to share additional details as they are finalized.
For more information please see the following helpful links:
- For the Department of Education: https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ope/caresact.html
- For the the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators: https://www.nasfaa.org/covid19
- For the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities: http://www.naicu.edu/research-resources/coronavirus-disease-covid-19-resources