Explainer: Students will be allocated at least $600,000 in CARES funding. Do you qualify?

Over $600,000 will be distributed to the pockets of some Augustana students, thanks to CARES Act funding received by the university.

On March 27, President Donald Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, an economic relief package of over $2 trillion to mitigate health and economic impacts of COVID-19, into law.

The CARES Act provides funding for many small businesses and higher education institutions, such as Augustana. 

“Augustana is the go-between for the government and can provide a way to get the CARES Act funds into the hands of the students who need it,” Tresse Evenson, director of financial aid, said. 

Funding for each college and university is based on a formula — 75% of the allocation is based on an institution’s Pell student enrollment, and the other 25% is based on non-Pell enrollment, including graduate students. Pell students have low to moderate income levels and receive a federal grant to help cover a portion of their higher education costs. 

Augustana received a total allocation of $1,215,394 with $607,697 as the minimum allocation to be awarded for emergency financial aid grants to students.

How do students know if they’re eligible for the CARES Act?

According to an email sent to Augustana students on May 4 by Chief Financial Officer Shannan Nelson, students who wish to apply for an award must meet the following criteria:

  • Enrolled in the Spring 2020 semester
  • A degree-seeking student, either undergraduate or graduate
  • Eligible to receive Title IV aid and have submitted a 2019-2020 FAFSA
  • Incurred additional expenses for food, housing, technology, healthcare, childcare or moving based on the disruptive impact of COVID-19
  • Not be enrolled in a program that was already fully online at the start of the spring

2020 semester (i.e. students enrolled in the Master of Education or Master of Special Education programs)

For students who did not fill out the 2019-2020 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), they have until May 15 to be considered for CARES funding.

“If a student meets all of the eligibility criteria, there are no additional steps to receive funding,” Evenson said.

How do students apply for the CARES Act funding?

If a student is eligible to receive a one-time financial award, the application link will automatically be in their checklist on the home screen of their Augustana student portal.

The application asks students to choose their top three greatest areas of need — food, housing, technology, moving home, health care or daycare. 

The maximum award is $1,000 per student in total. However, each specific category of need has its own maximum award and depends on whether or not the student is taxed as an independent or dependent. 

While students must meet the criteria in order to receive funding, Evenson says she doesn’t know how many students will apply.

“It is hard to anticipate how many of our students will apply because we’ve all been impacted by this disruption in one way or another,” Evenson said. “Every student was and is in a different situation. We hope that any student facing a financial hardship due to the disruption to our campus will apply.”

Evenson says because of the unprecedented nature of the pandemic and the lack of past data, she is unsure which area of need will be the largest for students who do apply.

“My assumption is that moving expenses would capture the largest section of our students because of our residential nature,” Evenson said. “I know in my own home, we’ve had to “beef up” our connectivity, so I would assume there are students on their own, with roommates or with their families that needed the same in order to function remotely.”

When will students receive the funding?

Augustana will begin reviewing applications on May 15 and will do so through June 1. Funds will be allocated as applications are received and distributed until all available resources have been exhausted, said Nelson in his email to students. 

Students will be notified of their approval or denial through their university email account. Emails will be sent starting May 15. 

Students will receive their award through a direct deposit to the bank account they have on record. Evenson reminds students to ensure that their preferred account — checking or savings — is up to date on the student portal. 

Students who have an outstanding balance with Augustana can use the CARES funding to pay the balance, but the funding will be provided directly to the student. If they wish to pay their remaining balance using the funding, they must do so separately. 

Augustana urges students to reach out to the Dean of Students Office or the Financial Aid Office if the CARES Act funding is not sufficient enough to assist with financial difficulties.

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