ASU has spent over $25 million from the CARES Act to reopen this academic year

A financial breakdown on how the University has spent its millions of CARES Act funding to support learning, and why some students are still upset

ASU has spent a total of over $25 million on campus operations, technological updates and other fees over the past two financial quarters, with a little over $12 million used to support ASU Sync, according to documents and emails from a University spokesperson.

Since July, $8.2 million was spent on purchasing, renting or loaning new equipment for learning and software or upgrading existing technology, according to CARES Act reports from ASU. 

Over $3.5 million went to the ASU laptop loaner program to provide students access to ASU Sync, the synchronous learning modality that enables students to attend live lectures via Zoom. Most courses at ASU are offered through Sync. 

The remainder of the money allocated for Sync, around $291,000, was spent on providing high-speed internet for faculty and students. 

In the University's Quarterly Budget and Expenditure Report, ending on Dec. 31, the University spent a total of $6.7 million. In the quarter ending on Sept. 30, the University spent $18.45 million.

In March, ASU received $63.5 million provided by the U.S. Department of Education from the CARES Act. Approximately half of the total, $31.7 million, went to student aid and assistance to help students stay on track for graduation. The remainder of those funds were designated to "benefit virtually all immersion students," a July statement from the University said. 

Although a sizable portion of the CARES Act funding went to supporting students in classrooms, many still feel as though the University has not done enough to offer direct financial assistance. 

Carolyne Mas, a graduate student studying medical nutrition, said the University's allocation of funding is unfair to struggling students. 

Mas, who is also a professional songwriter and performer, and her husband both lost sources of income due to the pandemic. Now, their only income is Mas' disability pay. When she applied for crisis funding through the University, she was denied. 

In an email from the crisis fund Mas provided to The State Press, the University said it had to consider “each individual’s personal situation," and they were unable to offer Mas crisis assistance.

"When a school gets that much money from the CARES Act, I think that they should be a little bit more generous with whom they give it to," Mas said. "We have a loyalty to ASU and I would just like to see them do well by the students."

ASU has yet to spend approximately $6.5 million of the funds intended for its own expenses, according to the expenditure reports.

Gov. Doug Ducey allocated ASU an additional $46 million in December from the state's CARES Act funds. The total was designed to "reimburse a portion of ASU's COVID-related costs," according to a University Statement.

Jessica Antonio, a graduate student studying medical nutrition, is equally frustrated by ASU's response to student need.

Over the years she worked toward undergraduate degrees, Antonio relied on ASU's in-person services to complete her studies, like the library and free internet on campus. When the University went online last March, she had to buy a computer, printer, chair and access to the internet in a week. 

After learning a friend in New Mexico received direct financial assistance from the CARES Act at her university, Antonio wanted to know if ASU would provide the same help to its students but learned it would not. 

NAU and GCU all distributed CARES Act funding directly to students. UA received nearly $31 million from the CARES Act and distributed half of the funds to its students. 

After speaking with others about their similar financial struggles, Antonio formed a group and wrote a letter on behalf of Spring 2020 students to ASU President Michael Crow asking for crisis cash grants. 

The group was deferred to Joanne Vogel, vice president of student services, and they arranged a Zoom meeting to voice their concerns. At the meeting, Vogel said half of the money would be directed to approximately 14,000 students who demonstrated financial need and were continuing their education at ASU in the summer or fall.

Through a resolution passed unanimously in June, Undergraduate Student Government Tempe urged ASU to use the entirety of the original $63.5 million of the CARES Act for students. After several months and no change, Antonio said the University did not support its students fully in the crisis. 

"You forgot about these students that were suffering," she said. "And the students will remember that." 


Reach the reporter at alcamp12@asu.edu and follow @Anna_Lee_Camp on Twitter.

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