Sacramento State students will receive federal money to help offset costs associated with disruptions caused by COVID-19. (Sacramento State/Hrach Avetisyan)
By Dixie Reid
Students who have faced financial hardship since the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted campus life will benefit from $17.8 million in federal aid recently awarded to Sacramento State.
The University’s allocation from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) was authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Security (CARES) Act.
Campus officials expect to begin dispensing HEERF grants to students by early next week. It could take several days for students to receive their money, officials said.
“We hope that these emergency grants will provide some help for students who are struggling with financial issues right now,” said Ed Mills, vice president for Student Affairs. “Sometimes just a few hundred dollars can make a big difference for a student.”
Grants each student receives will vary, but need is the key factor as decisions about the size of each grant are made.
Those eligible to receive grants include students enrolled at Sacramento State for spring 2020, students who are eligible for financial aid, and students not enrolled in a completely online program as of March 13. Emergency grants from non-federal sources will go to students who qualify to file the California Dream Act Application (DACA) or have completed an AB 540 document.
All eligible students will receive their money automatically, without needing to apply for it.
“There will be disappointment for some (because although) $17.8 million is a lot of money, when it is divided by almost 29,000 students, the actual awards are much smaller than any of us would like,” University President Robert S. Nelsen said Thursday, April 30, when he announced the aid package to the campus community.
The U.S. Department of Education determined Sac State’s share, based primarily on the number of Pell-eligible students enrolled at the University, and, to a lesser degree, the overall student population.
More than half of all Sac State students rely on federal Pell grants to pay for their education.
“Given the weighting, Congress clearly intends the funding for the students with the most need,” Nelsen said.
Mills also noted that there are additional campus resources for students, including the CARES Office, which is operating virtually for now, and Student Health and Counseling Services, which is offering telehealth and counseling for students.
Sacramento State officials put aside $1.6 million of the HEERF money in a fund for students in crisis. Students also can apply for assistance through Sac State’s emergency grant and emergency housing programs.
“We remain committed to finding ways to support the Hornet Family through this crisis,” Nelsen said.