HEERF Grant to Help Financial Difficulties of Students Due to COVID-19

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Paige Gardner

University of Utah campus. (Photo by Paige Gardner | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Stephanie Hong, News Writer

 

Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, 56% of college students say they can no longer afford to pay their tuition.

With students experiencing financial difficulties during the pandemic, some have been eligible for financial support under the higher education emergency relief fund.

“Lots of people had lost their job because companies were going out of business during the pandemic,” said Ann House, the director of the Financial Wellness Center at the University of Utah. “[The] HEERF grant is awarded to alleviate the financial difficulties of students who will have financial difficulties in households due to the pandemic.”

House said the grant is designated to financial aid offices within the state, and is dispersed to higher education students in need.

“Students are often confused by the name of this HEERF grant because it has three different kinds and [is] called … a lot of different names,” House said.

According to the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act includes a Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund that provides more than $14 billion in emergency funding to higher education.

More than $6 billion of this must be granted directly to students via emergency financial aid to help cover expenses related to the “disruption of campus operations due to the COVID-19 crisis.”

“There were three rounds of funding from the federal government to support students and institutions of higher education during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Anthony Jones, the executive director of the U Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid.

According to Jones, HEERF I and II require students to meet the eligibility criteria for federal financial aid, outlined under Section 484 in Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965. Some qualifications include a valid social security number, a high school diploma and having citizenship or being an eligible non-citizen, among others.

“For HEERF I and II grants, eligibility was based on demonstration of financial need, using the Free Application for Federal Student Aid,” Jones said.

According to Jones, for HEERF III, all enrolled students are eligible without regard to the results of the FAFSA, but students with demonstrated financial need can receive larger grant amounts.

“HEERF III funds were authorized under the American Rescue Plan and represent emergency grants to university students to help pay for costs while attending the university (e.g. tuition, books, housing, food, health care, etc.),” Jones said. “In addition to funds to help pay for college costs, these funds can also be used to help with emergency costs associated with the coronavirus.”

An April 3 announcement from the Office of Postsecondary Education clarifies any aid received by victims of an emergency by either a federal or state entity for financial aid will not count as income when calculating Expected Family Contribution or as estimated financial assistance.

“Students received HEERF funds through direct deposit or paper check depending upon the student’s refund preference and information established in Campus Information Services,” Jones said.

According to Jones, students can check their refund preferences and information by visiting the tuition and loans tile in their CIS portal. HEERF grants have been issued directly to the student and not applied to their tuition statement.

 

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