By Lauren Sieh
Southwestern College like many institutions around the United States will receive the allotted sum of $490,411 through the CARES Act: Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund.
According to the U.S Department of Education’s official website, “The CARES Act: Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund-IHE/Student Aid provides funding to intuitions to provide emergency financial aid grants to students whose lives have been disrupted, many of whom are facing financial challenges and struggling to make ends meet.”
At least 50% of the total funds will go to emergency student financial aid for expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to coronavirus, including eligible expenses under a students’ cost of attendance. The remaining sum will be used at the college’s discretion to cover qualified expenses.
EAB: Education Technology, Services, and Research official website states that funds may not be used for payments to contractors for the provision of pre-enrollment recruitment activates, endowments and capital outlays for facilities related to athletics, sectarian instruction or religious worship.
Kaydee Riggs-Johnson, vice president of marketing and communication, has stated that financial aid is working thoroughly with the guidelines that were set in place by the federal government and applying those rules to a formula to that will allow them to distribute and disperse the funds fairly.
“They are trying to do it as quickly as possible because they know students need those dollars. However, they do not want to do it in the way that falls outside of the guidelines. They are trying to balance speed with accuracy,” said Riggs-Johnson.
This formula however, is still up for discussion. Brenda Hicks, director of financial aid, explained that financial aid has been working on ideas through this whole process and making sure that they are following rules that Congress and the U.S Department of Education propose.
“There is some still lingering questions that we are waiting on guidance for. We do not really have the ability to make this money anywhere else if we do it wrong the first time. So, we are just cautiously moving forward and working on our rules,” said Hicks.
“We are feeling the pressure to get the money [to the students]. I really feel for you guys. The money needs to get out there. People need it but we also need to be clear on what the government wants us to do with that money.”
Southwestern official statement states, “The bottom line is that we expect to be able to distribute one-time financial grants, to our neediest students, using CARES Act funds. We will be in touch directly with student who qualify, to communicate about the distribution of those grants, as soon as early June.”
Lauren Sieh is reporting on this story from her home in Coweta, Oklahoma.