University still identifying how to distribute CARES Act funds

Students called on the University to develop a plan as quickly as possible

At least half of the $63.5 million in funds for ASU from the CARES Act will go to students — but details concerning who is eligible, how many students will receive the aid and when they might receive it are still being discussed, a University official confirmed. 

"We still have a team of individuals from across the University that are working to determine the University’s approach to the distribution of funds," said ASU spokesperson Katie Paquet, in an email.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, provides $1.8 trillion in emergency funding. $63.5 million of the almost $2 trillion was made available to the University to use.

Since April 22, the funds have been set aside for ASU by the U.S. Department of Education, but due to the lack of a "finalized" plan, funds have not been released, Paquet confirmed.

Once an approach for distribution is determined, University officials will report back to the DOE and the funds will then be released to the school for distribution.

“In order to access the funds, the Department must receive a signed certification from the higher education institution affirming they will distribute the funds in accordance with applicable law,” a press release from the DOE said. “The college or university will then determine which students will receive the cash grants.”

Cash grants can only be given to “college students whose lives and educations have been disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak,” the DOE press release said.

Students speak out

Students for Socialism Treasurer Daniel Lopez, a junior studying philosophy and political science, said the University's first priority should be its students and a plan to allocate aid should be released immediately.

"For students who have to plan their bills ahead of time, this puts them at a disadvantage during a crisis which may leave them unhoused or seriously ill," Lopez said. 

Judah Waxelbaum, chairman of the Arizona Federation of College Republicans and a junior studying political science, said the University has not been forthcoming in communications with students.

"Lack of transparency is leading to a lack of confidence," Waxelbaum said about the University as a whole.

Waxelbaum voiced frustrations for losing money when his parking pass wasn't refunded and when he and his classmates continued to pay for in-person classes when that was no longer delivered. 

The decision is ultimately up to University officials, but students are hopeful they'll receive some rebate. Lopez said need-based funding would normally be an "excellent" option, but "universal and equal distribution might be necessary due to the pressing nature of the crisis."

Waxelbaum said a plan should be implemented as soon as possible, directing 100% of the funds to students rather than just 50%. 

Whether it's aid for everyone, a limited number of students, or refunds for students who had parking passes and meal plans, Waxelbaum said quick communication will keep students from getting angry.

“From the start, our goal with that money is to support students first and foremost in continuing their academic studies,” Paquet said.

At an Arizona Board of Regents meeting last week, President Michael Crow said financial assistance is "broadly scoped" and University officials were prioritizing "helping students to stay in college and finish."

Other university approaches

GCU has already distributed $610 to eligible students.

“We wanted to treat all students equally so the funds were distributed evenly to all eligible students, which expedited the process,” Bob Romantic, GCU’s executive director of communications and public relations said in an email.

GCU is expecting to receive another $11.175 million from the CARES Act, which the university can use to cover its own costs, but will instead also be distributed to students, Romantic said.

"Our COVID-related expenses will exceed $11.175 million but we have already determined that 100% of those university funds will also be given to students to help them navigate the challenges caused by the coronavirus," Romantic said. 

In a letter sent to eligible GCU students, along with a check for $610, President Brian Mueller wrote for students to use the emergency cash grant for “any unforeseen expenses you may have incurred as a result of disruption of campus operations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“GCU knows the coronavirus pandemic has put a lot of stress on families,” Mueller wrote. “We hope this emergency cash grant provides additional assistance during this unprecedented time.”

NAU has identified 16,000 students who are eligible to receive aid, and followed up with students who have not completed a FAFSA, but might still need aid by sending out forms about direct deposit and a questionnaire, NAU President Rita Cheng said at last week's ABOR meeting. 

NAU will allocate all $11.7 million it received to students directly affected, according to its website. The money awards will be granted in two phases, contingent upon the approval of a student's application.

UA qualified for $31 million and has received $15.5 million for students. It plans to distribute the emergency cash grants soon, azcentral reported. UA has not announced how it plans to spend the other half of its funds.


Reach the reporters at pjhanse1@asu.edu and wmyskow@asu.edu and follow @piperjhansen and @wmyskow on Twitter. 

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