Laptops, books and desks are just three of the many accommodations students at Pierce College can apply for with the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, distributed through the financial aid department.
The CARES Act is a relief fund designated to help students with anything they need to do well with online classes.
“When the pandemic hit and all the schools had to close, obviously there was a huge impact with student populations and higher education,” says Trinity Huttner, the district director of financial aid. “What the CARES Act does, is it provides us with an opportunity as a college to give those extra relief funds back to the students with mostly things they wouldn’t be able to get on-campus anymore.”
Funding from the CARES act first came to Pierce last May during spring quarter due to the significant changes that had to be made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. On-campus technology like computers/laptops, library books and printers became unavailable to students with the in-person to online switch. Common resources or materials students used before the pandemic on-campus, like areas designated to study, the child care center, the campus gym and food from the food pantry also became unavailable for anyone to use.
“It’s really about being able to provide resources and opportunities to students outside of financial aid that they need to have to be successful in school,” says Huttner.
To apply for the CARES Act, students need to be eligible to participate in programs under Section 484 in Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, allowing them to receive financial emergency grants. The process is similar to applying for regular financial aid, in which your citizenship, age, program of intent and FAFSA application are required.
If students are unsure if they’re eligible or not to apply, they can call the financial aid office and ask for confirmation. An easier route, according to Huttner, is to go to the website readysetgrad.wa.gov and fill out a questionnaire that will help guide them through their FAFSA application.
“What’s great about that, is that if a student maybe isn’t eligible for Title IV funding, by using the website they can apply for state funding and possibly be eligible for that and still get financial help,” says Huttner.
After confirming their eligibility, students can go to the application for the CARES Act and fill out the information required. Name, contact information, checking off what you need and filling out a short description explaining why you need what you’re applying for, are the main aspects of the application. Students can also reapply again for different items they need even after they’ve received any other items.
Currently, a total of $764,615 from the CARES act has been awarded 1147 applications, with an average amount of $1,467 to 571 students.
The CARES Act also serves as institutional funding for Pierce College students and staff along with the financial aid side. Of the $1,962,602 granted to Pierce, 50% of the funds are meant for in-person operations.
Funding for institutional purposes goes toward resources on campus like janitorial supplies, plexiglass barriers and any supplies needed for the few in-person programs going on.
“A lot of this originally had to do with bringing in the dental hygiene program back up and running and getting them their infiltration units and all of the gloves and the masks since they would be able to be on campus if it wasn’t for (the CARES Act),” says Sylvia James, the director of fiscal services at Pierce College.
James estimated about 500 pairs of gloves being used weekly by students in the dental hygiene program.
Until all programs go back to in-person instruction, Huttner says that Pierce College administration will be focusing on making sure students feel supported in the eLearning format.
“We don’t want it to just be about students coming to class and turning in an assignment and having their funds paid for,” says Huttner. “We want to make sure a student is engaging in class and that they’re successfully looking at outcomes and feeling excited for what’s after Pierce College all while having everything paid for.”
CARES Act funding is now available for Pierce College students at pierce.ctc.edu until the act expires during May 2021.
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