Community Colleges Struggled With Emergency Aid Distribution

Many community colleges already have the aid disbursed concerns federal law package helps its students.

The leaders of the two-year colleges said they are grateful for the support, but also that there is not enough money, and that the federal guidance on how to distribute the funds - or lack thereof - hard did move quickly blow

college students in the Community have been pandemic coronavirus .. Many of them work the least part time while going to school, often in industries that they have been closed by COVID-19. College community leaders had to balance getting the funds to the greatest possible number of students, while ensuring the students amount received would make a difference.

The formula used in the Act CARES to send funds to universities depended largely on the number of full-time Pell Grant recipients institutions serve. About one-third of community college students are eligible for Pell Grants, but many also attend part-time, reducing the amount of aid received colleges.

"We are grateful for the dollars provided," said Monty Sullivan, president of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System. "But without doubt, the amount of need that is out there is far superior to the help."

The United States Department of Education published a guide in April saying the help of the student emergency concerns the law could only go to students eligible for funding under Title IV. Later, the Department said it would not meet these guidelines, stirring more confusion.

In a survey by the National Association of Students Administrators financial aid, more than 80 percent of respondents said that Multiple rounds of orientation of the Department were confusing and disbursement of delayed aid. A majority also said that there was insufficient instruction, many institutions expressed concern that the Department prepares to release funds CARES Act without providing prior guidance on how they could use.

The way the funding formula worked, along with the orientation of confusing the Department of Education, frustrated some college community leaders.

"lack of clarity between the CARES Act and the Department of restrictive requirements Education exclude vulnerable members of our communities made it difficult to quickly establish processes and make money at the right time," said Ashanti hands, vice president of student services at San Diego Mesa College. "Trying to get students to the point of not even being able to determine your eligibility sometimes meant complete the FAFSA, which, with all necessary documentation for this process, put up barriers for many and it seemed impossible to the allowed short answer . "

School staff spent "considerable time" face the obstacles facing students in the application of funds.

They also had to determine how to fairly distribute the funds were not sufficient to cover all needs of their students, the hands said. The university had conducted a survey needs COVID-19 when the pandemic started. The responses showed that 58 percent of students had lost income; about a quarter they were unable to pay rent, mortgage or utilities; 16 percent do not have enough food; and 10 percent were in unstable living situations.

A team looked distribution formulas based on equity and decided to provide $ 500 to all students who meet the basic eligibility requirements established in the Law CARES.

Louisiana, the system establishes a common set of guidelines for its 12 schools to follow when distributing funds, Sullivan said. Identified schools that would be qualified and then the funds received by the number of eligible students are divided. Prizes ranged from a few hundred dollars through schools.

The two-year colleges moved quickly and the money is distributed within a week of the latest guidance issued by the Department, Sullivan said. But the creation of the grading process was a "bit of a moving target."

Many students were also eligible, although greatly needed funds, he said. The average age of students in the system is 27. About 42,000 students in the system are enrolled in basic education programs for adults. They do not have a high school diploma and often are underemployed, and many of his works were greatly affected by the pandemic, Sullivan said.

"The CARES Act completely ignored that group," he said. "It serves as an opportunity to remind people, this is what is in America. We have 64 million working adults with a high school diploma or less school. No helped them."

Another 40,000 students in the system who were enrolled in job training programs without credit were also eligible for funding.

If the Department has published a guide on the front, Sullivan said, students could have adjusted their expectations. Instead, many institutions and students were confused as to why some were not eligible for relief.

The role of community colleges

Some leaders felt that there were positive aspects to the lack of guidance, though.

"for everyone, we had to kind of figure that on our own," said Scott Ralls, president of Wake Technical Community College in North Carolina in the. "While I think to figure out on our own it was difficult, but we also allowed to decide what was most important for our people."

In the case of Wake Tech, which meant ensuring each prize was large enough to make a significant impact, Ralls said. The average grant eligible students have received more than $ 1,000.

The university also set up their own grant funds for students who were not eligible for assistance from the Cares Act. Esmeralda Owens, a student of 31 years who works two jobs, was taking two courses in the spring semester. Because one was online, which did not qualify for CARES Act funding.

But Owens was furloughed from their jobs and received no unemployment money for over a month, so I was struggling . She received a gift card for groceries, which sent many college students, and was told to apply to a special fund, which gave two grants totaling more than $ 1,000.

The aid will help pay your rent payment and insulin you need. It also helped her to pay cell phone bills larger, as she used her mobile hotspot to access the Internet and take exams, ensuring that it can continue pursuing her degree in human services and mental health.

"With no money coming in, it was very stressful. I get here and did not want to lose out," he said. "I know it's just money to them, but when you see what you are really doing for students - without that, I do not think I would be able to pass my classes."

Other colleges are using their own funds to compensate for holes in the Act CARES, too. Broward College in Florida, for example, took budgeted $ 150,000 for the spring graduation to create a fund to support students.

The system created to disburse funds from the budget helped to college when the time comes to distribute CARES Act funding came. But Multiple revisions of the guidance Department funds delayed the disbursement, said Marielena DeSanctis, provost and vice president for academic affairs and student services in Broward.

While some community college leaders said distribution logistics support was likely difficult in all institutions, it is clear that two-year colleges face significant challenges.

"I think when you read some guidance and some of the ways in which the law was written, it felt as if there would probably be an understatement of the operation of community colleges and the role of schools community to some extent, "Ralls said, citing examples of what students could use the funds to equal the expense of flying back home (which relatively few community college students have to do). "The community colleges are, I think, greater labor force US ed. Some of the things that happened in the school community to stop students are things that people would not think."

For example, Ralls said, the school had to close its food pantry, which was a blow to many students.

"I think there are some ways in which aspects of community colleges offer aid was underestimated," he said.

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