AUSTIN (KXAN) — Deadlines are quickly approaching for higher education students to apply for financial aid due to disruptions in learning brought on by COVID-19.
The United States government allocated roughly $14 billion in federal funds to universities and colleges nationwide through the CARES Act. Approximately $12.56 billion is distributed to institutions based on a student enrollment formula.
Of the amount allocated to each institution, at least 50% must be reserved for students to help cover expenses including food, housing, course materials, technology, healthcare and child care.
In an April letter to college and university presidents, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos wrote that it will be up to each institution’s discretion to develop a system for awarding emergency assistance to its students.
“Financially, it hit me,” said 21-year-old Gyselle Ortiz. Ortiz was only a few months into her medical assistant learning program at Southern Careers Institute in Austin when the COVID-19 outbreak hit.
She’s had to transition to online learning while picking up more hours on the weekends at Amazon to support her mom and sister.
“I have to put in extra effort just because is virus is going on. I have to work harder than before,” Ortiz said as she explained her reasoning to apply for the federal grants.
At the Southern Careers Institute, which has campuses in Austin and across Texas, the school received a total of $6,305,240. More than 1,500 students have applied to receive assistance, including Ortiz. The other half of the financial grant will go toward “improving online and distance learning functionality,” the institute reports. The deadline to apply is May 15.
“We encourage all of our students to get their applications in by the deadline tomorrow,” said SCI’s Regional Director of Admissions Michael Maloto. “We’re really grateful for the federal government and CARES Act for providing these grants to students so they can stay focused on their education and continue down their path.”
Staff at St. Edward’s University shared with students that the school had been awarded $4.1 million. They also encouraged students in need to connect directly with the Dean of Students and Emergency Aid.
The University of Texas at Austin and Texas State University will each distribute approximately $15 million to students. There is no deadline established yet for UT, but officials say to apply as soon as possible considering the funds are limited. Texas State students must get their applications in for the Bobcat CARES Emergency Grant by May 27.
Higher education experts have expressed some frustrations with the process. The money has been slow to get to universities, causing tight turnaround times. And not everyone is eligible. You have to be a U.S. citizen, enrolled in in-person coursework and you can’t be in default on student loans.
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