The University released a plan Friday detailing a breakdown for distribution of the money it received from the CARES Act after months of deliberation, a meeting with students and an outpour of social media demands asking the money be released to students.
ASU received $63.5 million from the coronavirus relief bill, or CARES Act, and the U.S. Department of Education; at least $31.7 million will be distributed as automatic awards to student accounts. The University announced funds will be distributed in order to “support students first and foremost in continuing their academic studies.”
In most cases, no application for funds is necessary. The University said Friday that money will be directly applied to around 14,000 student accounts. Eligibility will be based on a student’s financial need. The University will distribute aid in amounts ranging from $500 to $6,000 that will help students stay on a path toward graduation, it said.
The University said $14.4 million will be used to help 4,000 undergraduate and 500 graduate students who do not currently receive aid from ASU. $8.9 million will go to 4,500 low-income students that include members of the College Attainment Grant and President Barack Obama Scholars programs.
$2.5 million is going to be used to help 1,000 new students who demonstrate financial need and may not be able to enroll due to an economic situation caused by the pandemic. About 2,000 students who took summer classes will receive a portion of $2.4 million based on need.
$3.5 million will be directed to about 2,000 students and families whose financial situation has either made them eligible for aid or additional aid. About $1 million of this money is going to be set aside for students with unmet basic needs.
The distribution of the funds will begin in August, and last until the spring 2021 semester, the University said. ASU has one year to distribute the funds.
Aside from CARES Act distribution, the University said they have distributed close to $1 million in emergency grants to help students cover expenses related to rent, food, transportation and health care. About 1,400 students received an average of $700, according to the University.
The University also loaned more than 2,000 laptops and hundreds of internet hotspots to spring and summer students in order for them to continue instruction. The University also offered telehealth services for students in need of medical or counseling support.
Months-long student cries for financial help
Recent graduates from the spring semester have hosted Zoom meetings for roughly a month where they discuss their financial situations and other struggles since being asked to leave campus and complete courses online.
Students reiterate every situation is different but most students they know are having difficult financial troubles. Experiences range from moving in with family, not having access to a reservation, falling behind on rent and skipping meals to pay for rent and other expenses.
“Students in Spring 2020 were affected by coronavirus,” said Jessica Antonio, who has led the student meetings.
The group repeatedly asked the University to release all of the CARES Act funding to students, including those the University has said they will exclude: Spring 2020 graduates and those enrolled in summer classes.
“(Spring 2020 students) had short term notice, they had to think fast, they had to be very resourceful and they had to do it by themselves because they received little to no support from the administration or ASU staff,” said Antonio, a 2020 graduate with degrees in business administration, American Indian studies and nutrition and dietetics.
The group sent a letter to ASU President Michael Crow requesting to meet with him. Vice President of Student Services Joanne Vogel and Tempe Dean of Students Cassandra Aska were sent to the meeting instead and promised students they would take messages and testimony back to other administrators.
Undergraduate Student Government response
USGTempe formed a topical working group over summer to advocate for student interests when it comes to the CARES Act. The group was able to research and draft a resolution demanding the University release all $63.5 million to students based on need.
“This group has been outreaching to students as well as meeting with the administration to ensure the student voice is heard when it comes to distribution,” Senate President Kate Hostal wrote in an email.
The resolution asks the University to consider releasing all of the funds given to them to students based on need, including students who have since graduated, because they face economic impact, just as much as students who are continuing their education at ASU in the fall.
Undocumented and international students are not included in the CARES Act recepient list but the resolutions asks the University to find additional internal funding in order to support them.
At the end of the spring semester USGT partnered with the University’s Student Advocacy Office in order to create a crisis fund that has since been exhausted. About 15 students who are actively participating in USG over summer break have been redirecting students in need to a dean of students.
Prior to the special session and before summer break, USGT reallocated their remaining, unused $65,000 from the 2019-2020 budget to the Office of Student Advocacy and Assistance’s crisis fund.
Wyatt Myskow is the project manager at The State Press, where he oversees enterprise stories for the publication. He also works at The Arizona Republic, where he covers the cities of Peoria and Surprise.
Piper Hansen is the digital editor-in-chief at The State Press, overseeing all digital content. Joining SP in Spring 2020, she has covered student government, housing and COVID-19. She has previously written about state politics for The Arizona Republic and the Arizona Capitol Times and covers social justice for Cronkite News.