Cal Poly Pomona is expediting the process to distribute a minimum of $15.5 million in grants to students in need starting the week of April 5.
The federal funds, received in mid-March, are part of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, known as HEERF II, which was signed into law on Dec. 27.
Cal Poly Pomona will receive a total of $51.8 million from the stimulus package. About $36.3 million is designated as institutional aid, which will be used for putting in infrastructure and technology to engage students in virtual instruction and to work towards the implementation of safety measures for an eventual re-opening of the campus, said Joe Simoneschi, associate vice president of finance and administrative services and interim chief financial officer.
In an email to campus, Vice President of Student Affairs Christina Gonzales, gave an overview of how the grants will help students struggling financially.
“Cal Poly Pomona is here for you, and we want to support you in any way we can,” she wrote. “I invite you to take advantage of the full range of resources available to students.”
HEERF II marks the second round of stimulus dollars the university has received in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. HEERF I, designated the CARES Act, provided $33.2 million in student and institutional aid.
How HEERF II Student Aid Will Be Distributed
Unlike HEERF I, the federal government is requiring that colleges and universities make students with exceptional financial needs, such as those who are Pell Grant-recipients, a priority for receiving HEERF II funds.
All undergraduate, graduate, doctoral, and teaching credential students who are eligible for financial aid may be considered for the one-time grants, which range from $300 to $1,200, based on a model that considers Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and whether a student is part-time or full-time. The funds are to provide emergency financial support to students and can be used for any category of cost to attend the university including tuition, food, housing, healthcare (including mental health services) or childcare. The grants are not subject to taxation based on Cal Poly Pomona’s distribution model and don’t need to be repaid, said Jessica Wagoner, senior associate vice president for enrollment management and services.
The Office of Financial Aid & Scholarships will send an email to all eligible recipients regarding the grant amount and whether additional steps are needed to claim the funds.
Exploring Grants for Undocumented and International Students
The U.S. Department of Education does not allow the HEERF II funds to be used for international or undocumented students, including those in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
“Cal Poly Pomona is committed to supporting all our students, and we will pursue other sources of institutional funds to provide emergency support for these students,” Wagoner said regarding the restrictions on HEERF II student aid.
HEERF III, an additional stimulus package also known as the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, was signed into law March 11, but it is uncertain when the estimated $91.5 million designated for CPP will be received.
CARES Act Coming to a Close
The arrival of HEERF II funding comes as HEERF I, the CARES Act, is coming to a close. Cal Poly Pomona received $33.2 million, with $15.5 million going to students in the form of emergency grants.
The institutional aid portion went to assist with the transition to virtual instruction. The university funded more than 350 hot spots and more than 400 laptops and tablets for students and faculty to help make the switch, Simoneschi said.
Other efforts included professional development for faculty and staff and campus safety measures.
For Karla Amaya, a senior set to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in English in May, the grant funding has been a lifeline. At the time she received the money, she didn’t have a job and is still looking for work, she said. The federal funding has helped keep her afloat financially.
“When I found out I was getting the grant and financial aid, it was a life saver,” Amaya said. “Now, I can pay for my tuition, my textbooks and buy food. And nothing has gone wrong. I don’t have any overdue fees that I owe.”