By Cassie LaJeunesse, Campus Carrier Editor-in-Chief
On April 9, a press release from the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) announced that the department would distribute nearly $6 billion of emergency funding to colleges and universities to assist students impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. According to the release, “the funding is available through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.” $12.56 billion will be distributed to higher education institutions overall, with the aforementioned $6 billion earmarked for student aid.
A document of allocation amounts from the DOE lists that Berry will receive $1,589,811 of funding from the CARES Act, with $794,906 being the “minimum allocation to be awarded for emergency financial aid grants to students.”
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos sent a letter to college and university presidents on April 9 detailing how the funds would be distributed to institutions and how institutions should then allocate them to serve student needs.
“The CARES Act provides institutions with significant discretion on how to award this emergency assistance to students,” DeVos said in her letter. “This means that each institution may develop its own system and process for determining how to allocate these funds, which may include distributing the funds to all students or only to students who demonstrate significant need.”
An April 6 email from President Steve Briggs addressed what was then known about the CARES Act. The question “will Berry students benefit from the federal legislation known as CARES?” is part of the Frequently Asked Questions list distributed in this email. The answer to this question is as follows:
“Yes, in some cases. This legislation includes provisions to help students at independent colleges such as Berry. We are awaiting guidance from the federal Department of Education as to how and when funds will be distributed as well as the amount awarded to the college. We do know that half of all awarded funds are meant to provide direct support to students with exceptional need. These federal funds are separate from the refund the college is providing based on unused room and board. We will provide updates as additional information becomes available.”
DeVos’ letter also states that each institution must sign a Certificate of Funding and Agreement, which they must then return online at grants.gov. According to the DOE website, this Certificate of Agreement only needs to include the institution’s 50 percent direct-to-student allocation.
“The Department is also working expeditiously to allocate the remaining funding that is reserved for institutional use, and we will provide details on how institutions may apply for this institutional funding, as well as for other emergency funding, in the coming days,” DeVos said in the letter.
For more information on Berry’s response to COVID-19, visit Berry’s Coronavirus Updates page. To learn more about the CARES Act allocations, visit the DOE website. Stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.