UCC expecting over $2.5 million in new coronavirus relief funds

Published by Faith Byars on

Illustration of the cost of the virus
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UCC expecting over $2.5 million in new coronavirus relief funds

UCC will receive an additional $2.5 million boost in coronavirus-related relief due to recent legislation from Congress to supplement the $1.1 million UCC previously received under the Coronavirus Aid, Recovery, and Economic Security CARES Act.

The new Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplement Appropriations Act (CRRSAA), signed into law by President Trump on Dec. 27, 2020, gives higher education institutions and students another round of relief funds amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new CRRSAA Act allows schools to allocate a greater percentage of the total they receive toward the institution with one caveat (the CARES Act required schools to split their CARES funds between students and the institution with students receiving at least 50% of the total).

“As much as food, and gas, and health and loved ones are important, if you can’t pay for the roof over your head or to keep your electricity on, then you don’t have the basic security to even be able to worry about all the rest,”

ASUCC President Jesika Barnes

According to the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA), “CRRSAA does not require that 50% of an institution’s funds be spent on student grants. It does, however, require that institutions spend the same amount on student grants as they were required to spend under the CARES Act.”

CRRSAA authorizes a total of $81.88 billion to support U.S. higher education in addition to the previous $30.75 billion provided through the Coronavirus Aid, Recovery, and Economic Security (CARES) Act from spring 2020. As of Jan. 14, 2021, the U.S. Department of Education added an additional $21.2 billion for over $100 billion total.

The Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund notes that UCC should be awarded a total of $2,593,396 from CRRSAA.

Out of that total, “UCC expects to receive $560,927 for direct student aid and $2,032,469 in institutional aid,” Tiffany Coleman, UCC’s public information officer, said.

The CRRSAA funds going to student aid may be treated differently than the CARES funds which resulted in $660 checks being mailed to all eligible spring 2020 students, with a second disbursement sent out later to late-eligible and summer-eligible CTE students. These funds were sent directly to students without limitations on their use.

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Katelyn Buxton, now a UCC graduate who completed her AA/OT in spring, received one of the $660 awards.

“I knew I was going to be transferring to university in the fall, so I saved the money to help with tuition (college students always need help paying for tuition!),” Buxton said. “But my sister was able to pay for a summer class she took at UCC with the CARES check, and that was a huge blessing.”

UCC’s senior leadership team met Wednesday, Jan. 20 to discuss distribution of this new CRRSAA funding. At this meeting, the team created a sub-committee to brainstorm recommendations on how to best distribute the funds. The sub-committee will return after two weeks to present their recommendations to campus senior leadership, Coleman explained.

Many UCC students have struggled financially during the pandemic. These funds are meant to help eligible students tackle current financial barriers, meet their financial obligations and stay enrolled at the college.

ASUCC President Jesika Barnes understands the personal impact emergency relief funds have on a student’s life: “The pandemic had hit in a lot of ways that were very unexpected. For me, the funds that came through the CARES fund were absolutely crucial in being able to get by from one month to the next. As much as food, and gas, and health and loved ones are important, if you can’t pay for the roof over your head or to keep your electricity on, then you don’t have the basic security to even be able to worry about all the rest. As a low-income student, I rely a lot on the aid that I receive to go to school and do what I can to make up the rest. The money I received from the school helped me to keep my feet long enough to get other systems in place.”

According to UCC’s reports on the CARES Act funds, the CARES funding helped UCC students substantially. Over $560,000 was specifically given to students initially which was later increased to $582,662.

This total was compiled after the initial Student CARES Act funds were sent out as 33 more eligible students were identified and UCC reallocated additional funds from the Institutional CARES Act funds. This brought the total number of eligible students for UCC’s CARES Act funds to 883 students.

Illustration of a CARES Act update message
Graphic created with Canva
Graphic by Faith Byars / The Mainstream

The eligibility requirements for these funds were outlined by UCC as required by the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund:

  • Student must be enrolled in at least one credit at UCC in Spring 2020 and pursuing an aid-eligible degree or certificate.
  • Student was enrolled in welding and apprenticeship courses that were canceled and rescheduled for Summer 2020 and thus was not enrolled for spring term.
  • Student had a 2019-20 FASFA on filed that confirmed Title IV eligibility criteria.
  • Student had a remaining lifetime eligibility for loans and/or Pell Grant.
  • Student met the UCC’s Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) requirements.

Just how CRRSA will impact UCC students on the campus level is currently unclear. However, the CARES Act funds went largely to areas that benefited students.

According to UCC’s Institutional Quarterly Spending Reports, the institutional funds went toward reimbursements for shipping charges for Spring 2020 textbook orders and the additional funds for students. These funds were also used to provide reimbursements for housing and fall and winter athletic fee refunds. Some funds though HEERF as well as funds from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER Fund), which were separate CARES funds managed by the Oregon Governor’s Office, went to providing extra PPE and safety signs on campus, as well as revenue loss.

A large amount of the funds went toward the purchase of additional technology to aid in distance learning, including laptops for students to check out at the library, remote and online teaching training and new software to assist remote functions.

CRRSAA will also add $4 billion to a GEER II Fund. Oregon’s application for GEER II funds for local educational agencies (LEAs) and institutions of higher education (IHEs) was approved for $32.5 million. The Hunt Institute reports these funds will be used at Gov. Brown’s direction for combatting barriers to distance learning at all levels by increasing access to internet and needed technology and supporting student economic relief programs for example.

In addition to funding backed by the CARES Act, the UCC Foundation also has a one-time emergency fund for students with critical need to apply for through Financial Aid. For example, the Ford Family Foundation also provided funds for the Adult Basic Skills program, which was ineligible for CARES Act assistance.

The senior leadership team at UCC is expected to come to a decision about the priorities and distribution of the new CRRSAA funds in the coming weeks. When asked for a comment, there was no further information from Dr. Thatcher’s office as to what the president is considering for priority at this time.

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