On Thursday, April 9, the U.S. Department of Education, in accordance with provisions within the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, released a distribution plan that states the exact allocations each higher institution will receive to support students financially during the COVID-19 pandemic. The CARES Act, signed into law on March 27, 2020 by President Donald J. Trump, allocated $30.75 billion toward higher education institutions as part of the “Education Stabilization Fund.”
Provisions within the CARES Act’s “Education Stabilization Fund,” as well as the methodology for calculating allocations per Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act, provide institutions with specific funding based on their enrollment of Pell-Grant recipients. Provisions within the CARES Act require institutions, from the total allocation amount, to use 50% of the funds received to provide emergency financial grants to students.
The list of allocations, provided by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education, states the total allocation amount per institution, as well as the minimum allocation to be awarded for “emergency financial aid grants to students.”
According to the distribution plan, UCR was allocated $29,734,626 and at minimum, $14,867,313 of the funds must be awarded to students in the form of “emergency financial aid grants.” Out of the nine University of California (UC) institutions (excluding UC Hastings College of the Law and UC San Francisco), UC Irvine, UCLA, UC San Diego, UC Davis and UC Berkeley received the most allocations, with UC Irvine receiving a total of $36,731,629, UCLA receiving $35,906,870, UC San Diego receiving $34,889,769, UC Davis receiving $33,871,763 and UC Berkeley receiving $30,440,627. UC Merced received the lowest amount of funds, with a total of $13,037,897. UC Santa Cruz received $19,327,201 and UC Santa Barbara received $25,204,196.
In order to access these federally allocated funds, institutions were required to sign and return a “Certificate of Funding and Agreement.” In the agreement, it states that institutions must “promptly and to the greatest extent practicable distribute all the advanced funds in the form of emergency financial aid grants to students by one year from the date.”
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, in a grant funding cover letter written to university presidents, states that each institution receiving emergency assistance “may develop its own system and process for determining how to allocate these funds,” and that the only requirement “is that the funds be used to cover expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to coronavirus.”
Currently, information regarding eligibility for these emergency funds, as well as the process to obtain these funds is not posted on the UCR Office of Financial Aid’s website. The website states that if students experience a significant reduction in income as a result of COVID-19, they can file an appeal with the proper documentation to recalculate their “Expected Family Contribution” for the 2020-2021 financial aid award year. Additionally, it states that students “should contact the Financial Aid office to speak to a counselor” if in need of aid. Representatives from the Office of Financial Aid did not respond to requests for comment at time of publication. The Highlander will provide further updates as the situation develops.