NASFAA Mention: Months Later, Stimulus Grants Come for College Students in Fits and Starts

"Esosa Ruffin, a senior political science student at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, N.J., was interning at the Council for Opportunity in Education when Congress passed the CARES Act, a federal stimulus package, in late March in response to the coronavirus pandemic," Inside Higher Ed reports.

"She knew emergency aid would soon be on its way to college students nationwide, including those at Monmouth. In May, Ruffin graduated, and the university notified some students that grants were available.

... Ruffin said she is a low-income student, and her tuition, fees and room and board had been paid for through a combination of a Pell Grant, loans and other financial aid earlier in the year. The system Monmouth first used to distribute emergency grants excluded students without unmet financial need, defined as the direct cost of attendance minus the student's family's expected financial contribution, grants, scholarships, subsidized loans, federal work-study and graduate assistantship financial aid awards. Ruffin was among the excluded students, along with more than 250 other Pell-eligible students.

... A poll by the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators revealed that nearly three-quarters of institutions hadn’t disbursed CARES Act emergency grants by May. With little federal guidance, colleges were scrambling to develop individual disbursement processes, said Justin Draeger, president and CEO of NASFAA.

'These grants were appropriated in March and were meant to go to students quickly. Even the secretary [of education] herself urged schools to get these monies out as quickly as possible,' Draeger said. 'The problem was by mid-April, five weeks later, the department started introducing student eligibility criteria that caused most schools to slam on the brakes.'

The new eligibility criteria threw a wrench into colleges’ brand-new disbursement processes. Some colleges had to overhaul their plans to adhere to the new guidance, Draeger said. All the while, students, many of whom did not receive their own stimulus checks because they are claimed as dependents on their parents' tax forms, waited for emergency assistance.

'By the time we got to May, the term is ending, students were clearly already in crisis and were facing emergency expenses, and by May most schools had not disbursed funds primarily because they were confused about who was eligible and who wasn’t,' Draeger said.

In recent weeks, colleges have provided more CARES Act money to students. NASFAA re-polled institutions in June, finding that 94 percent had disbursed emergency grants to students. Of those institutions, more than half had spent 75 percent or more of the funds allocated by the federal government for student grants."

NASFAA's "Notable Headlines" section highlights media coverage of financial aid to help members stay up to date with the latest news. Articles included under the notable headlines section are not written by NASFAA, but rather by external sources. Inclusion in Today's News does not imply endorsement of the material or guarantee the accuracy of information presented.


Publication Date: 6/19/2020

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