Update on CARES Act funds disbursement

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Update on CARES Act funds disbursement

July 10, 2020

At Arizona State University, student success is our first and highest priority. We understand that the stress and uncertainty of this global public health emergency complicates the already challenging endeavor of pursuing a college education. We are committed to helping our students continue their successful educational journey toward graduation.

The COVID-19 pandemic poses stresses on many levels, but the value of a college degree remains one of the best ways to ensure a lifetime of achievement, satisfaction and financial security. At ASU, we believe it is our duty and our responsibility to continue to provide high-quality education to every qualified student who is willing to work for it. To that point, during the spring 2020 semester ASU distributed approximately $566 million in total financial aid, helping 63,000 students.

For weeks we have been carefully planning how best to allocate resources from the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act, funds provided by Congress to support universities and help campus-based students manage through the added stresses of the global health crisis as they continue their education.

ASU received $63.5 million in CARES Act funds, and the university has one year to disburse the money to help students. At least $31.7 million of the funds must be used for direct student support; the balance will help offset the significant costs incurred to modify and continue services to students impacted by the pandemic. Following are the details of our plans to disburse the $31.7 million in direct student support.

From now through spring 2021, we will utilize the $31.7 million in the following ways to help students who meet eligibility requirements based on financial need remain on the path toward graduation:

  • $14.4 million will be used to help continuing students who do not currently receive institutional aid from ASU. We expect that these funds will help about 4,000 undergraduate students and about 500 graduate students.
  • $8.9 million will help maintain our commitment levels to about 4,500 students from low-income families who demonstrate the highest level of need. These include Arizona students in the College Attainment Grant program and the President Barack Obama Scholars program, which help remove family resources as a barrier to higher education. Without these funds, our commitment level would likely have to decrease because of the financial ramifications of COVID-19.
  • $2.5 million will be used to help about 1,000 new students with demonstrated financial need whose ability to enroll might otherwise be disrupted by the pandemic. 
  • $2.4 million in need-based aid will help about 2,000 students who took classes this summer to get ahead, or catch up, in their studies. 
  • $3.5 million will be used for aid for students and families whose financial circumstances have changed, meaning they now may be eligible for aid, or may now be eligible for additional aid. About $1 million of this money will be set aside for students who come forward with basic unmet needs. We expect that these initiatives will serve about 2,000 additional students.

In most cases, no application will be necessary. These will be automatic awards, with funds awarded directly to students and their student accounts. Overall, we estimate that this plan will help around 14,000 students including those eligible for Pell Grants and other need-based aid. The awards likely will range from about $500 to about $6,000.

While the CARES Act provides welcome resources, there are many additional ways ASU may be able to assist students. Changes in economic circumstances might mean a student is now eligible for federal financial aid, or now might be eligible for additional federal financial aid, and we are having these conversations with students every day. If personal circumstances have created a different economic environment, we encourage students to visit the special site set up by ASU’s Financial Aid and Scholarship Services for additional guidance.

We also know that students may be dealing with other experiences and expenses as they navigate the way through this global crisis. It might be the need for a laptop or a Wi-Fi hot spot to help with studies. If so, students can check out a laptop or hot spot at the ASU Library. It might be basic unmet needs like food and nutrition. If so, students can also direct those requests to our financial aid office.

The university addressed every issue brought forward for the spring semester with university resources. We know that students have been tested this year in ways that no one could have expected, and we realize that financial stress is a big part of the pressure. We understand the difficulties that students experience, and our commitment to helping students get the assistance they need is a central part of our mission. 

(Aug. 10 update) The other portion of the CARES Act funds will benefit virtually all immersion students. The university has incurred significant expenses to keep the university operational and to continue to serve students during the pandemic, which is our No. 1 priority. We will be using those funds to support continuity of operations in areas such as:

  • Funding COVID-19 testing, research and contact tracing.
  • Enhancements and upgrades to technology and equipment in classrooms to support the ASU Sync learning environment.
  • PPE for students and employees.
  • Staffing and supplies needed for increased campus cleanings.

Posted: July 10, 2020, at 10 a.m.