CARES Act offers billions to aid college students

Nonprofit Hope Center has released a set of best practices for awarding emergency aid

Colleges and universities will receive $6 billion in emergency CARES Act funding to assist college students whose lives and educations have been disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak, the Trump administration has announced.

Colleges and universities can distribute the cash grants to students to use on course materials, technology, food, housing, healthcare and child care.

To receive the funds, colleges and universities must certify they will comply with the CARES Act. Administrators will determine which students receive the grants.

“What’s best for students is at the center of every decision we make,” Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said in a statement. “That’s why we prioritized getting funding out the door quickly to college students who need it most. We don’t want unmet financial needs due to the coronavirus to derail their learning.”

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The CARES Act will provide nearly $14 billion to higher education students and institutions. Allocations to specific colleges and universities will be weighted an institution’s number of full-time, Pell-eligible students.

How to get emergency aid to college students

The nonprofit Hope Center has released a set of best practices for awarding emergency aid, including simplifying the application process and minimizing red tape for students and staff, The Washington Post reported.

“This emergency aid will provide a critical lifeline to students … improving their well-being. But that will only happen if the funds are effectively and efficiently distributed by colleges and universities,” Sara Goldrick-Rab, Hope Center founder and a professor of higher education policy and sociology at Temple University, told The Washington Post. “It is not easy to distribute emergency aid well, and I don’t see much attention to that in the secretary’s letter.”

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To further support students after the sudden transition to online instruction, many campus leaders—including those at several high-selective schools—have made all courses pass/fail or switched to similar grading models.

Williams Colleges in Massachusetts switched to pass/fail at the end of March.

“During a standard semester, grades reflect a faculty member’s assessment of the quality of a student’s work produced under relatively consistent and controlled circumstances,” Williams President Maud Mandel said in a message. “The pandemic and ensuing campus closure make consistency and control impossible.”

UB’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on higher ed.

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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