University allocates CARES Act funding to support students
With funding provided through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Virginia Tech will immediately allocate $9.7 million to emergency financial aid grants for eligible students. These funds will support the university’s ongoing efforts to assist students who are experiencing financial hardships as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The changes that have been required to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect our communities have hit financially vulnerable students and their families especially hard,” said Virginia Tech President Tim Sands. “The $9.7 million CARES financial aid allocation is an important addition to the university’s existing support programs and will be passed directly to students as quickly as we can make it happen.”
On April 9, the U.S. secretary of education announced plans to distribute aid approved by Congress to universities to support costs associated with the educational impacts of shifting classes to online formats and for grants to students for food, housing, technology, and other purposes. The U.S. Department of Education notified institutions of these amounts with an expectation that it be delivered to students with needs as soon as possible.
The $9.7 million in CARES Act support that Virginia Tech will receive is based on total student enrollment and is also weighted for the number of Pell grant eligible students. In fall 2019, Virginia Tech had a total enrollment of 29,300 undergraduate students and 7,083 graduate students. There are 4,274 students who are Pell grant eligible, which represents 14.6 percent of total undergraduate enrollment.
“We recognize the unprecedented financial challenges and life changes the COVID-19 situation has presented for many of our undergraduate and graduate students, and we’ll continue to provide any support we can to help them through this difficult time,” said Executive Vice President and Provost Cyril Clarke. “The CARES Act funding offers us another opportunity to increase our ongoing assistance to students impacted by the pandemic and to help them refocus their attention and energy on achieving their academic goals. Whether on-campus or online, we are fully committed to the welfare and success of our students.”
Prior to the allocation of this federal funding, Virginia Tech was actively assisting students with a variety of emergency needs. The university is continuing this support through the Student Emergency Fund, which is administered by the Dean of Students Office, through assistance provided by the Student Opportunity and Achievement Resources (SOAR) program, and through direct appeals for additional financial aid through the Office of University Scholarships and Financial Aid.
Virginia Tech will distribute this additional CARES Act-supported financial aid to both undergraduate and graduate students through a process of formula-driven distributions and expanded individual emergency support. In an effort to get relief into the hands of students and families as soon as possible, Virginia Tech will distribute the majority of the student aid support based on a formula. The formula will consider factors that include Pell grant eligibility and prior borrowing from direct subsidized or alternative loan programs.
“The support we are able to offer to individual students through these programs, as they currently exist, is constrained in both the number of students we can help and the level of assistance we can provide,” said Luisa Havens Gerardo, vice provost for enrollment management. “Nevertheless, the infusion of these additional funds under the CARES Act does create an opportunity for the university to increase the number of students receiving assistance and expand the type of needs we can help alleviate.”
These grants will be awarded as soon as the institution has access to the federal funding. Grants will be disbursed to student accounts resulting in the issuance of a payment directly to the student. The university will initiate payment to the student by direct deposit to the bank account on file or by check mailed to the student’s permanent address of record. Students who do not have direct deposit may experience a delay in receiving their payment. Those who wish to sign up for direct deposit should do so though HokieSpa.
In addition to these formula-driven allocations, Virginia Tech will use a portion of the CARES Act funding to address various individual emergency needs as they are identified. A portion of the CARES Act funding will supplement the emergency relief funds of the university. Prior to receiving CARES Act funding, Virginia Tech had proactively provided financial support and relief to students to include expanding the Student Emergency Fund, refunds to students vacating on-campus housing, and rebates to parking and other select physical campus fees. The university is continuing to discuss and plan for programs to assist students during FY21.
Both undergraduate and graduate students with needs, and faculty and staff who learn of students with COVID-19 related emergency financial needs should contact the Dean of Students Office at (540) 231-3787 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The Dean of Students Office, in consultation with other student support offices and the office of university scholarships and financial aid, will evaluate each individual case and make appropriate additional awards of individual assistance from available emergency funds. This support is above and beyond the formula-driven awards described above.
University updates and information related to COVID-19 and the various resources and forms and support and assistance available to students can be found on the Virginia Tech website.