On April 9, 2020, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced that funding would be distributed to colleges and universities to provide direct emergency cash grants to college students whose lives and educations have been disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak. The funding was available through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, that was recently signed into law. A formula was used based on student enrollment, that awarded Holy Family University a total of $2,023,957 of which 50%, or $1,011,979, was to be used to support students directly, who have demonstrated need and are facing significant financial challenges due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The disbursement of the funds were (are) designed to prioritize students with the greatest demonstrated need and ensure that funds are distributed to as many students as possible.
Holy Family University sent to the US Department of Education on April 14, 2020, the required Certification and Agreement providing assurance that the University intends to use no less than 50% of the funds received under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act to provide Emergency Financial Aid Grants to students. This then triggered the Department of Education to make student support funds available to the University.
According to Department of Education guidelines, only those students eligible to receive Title IV funding are eligible to receive student support payments. As of March 27, 2020, Holy Family University enrolled 1,956 students that were eligible to participate in programs under Section 484 in Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 and thus were eligible to receive Emergency Financial Aid Grants to students under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act.
After reviewing how many students received Title IV federal financial aid during the Spring 2020 terms and their Estimated Family Contributions (EFC), which is calculated from their Free Application for Federal Aid (FAFSA), the following criteria were determined: all students receiving funds through the CARES Act must be receiving federal aid for the Spring 2020 term(s), and students' EFC must be less than $15,000. Approximately 1,575 Holy Family University students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels fit these criteria. Based on the amount of funding we received, it was determined that award amounts will not exceed $1,500 per student, though students may receive partial funding less than $1,500. Students were invited to apply for the funds, with a May 18, 2020 deadline.
Students are able to complete an online application for Emergency Financial Aid Grants through the Holy Family University website. Links to this application are also found on the University’s Learning Management System and were emailed to the student listserv. Submitted applications are first reviewed by the Office of Financial Aid to ensure applicants meet the criteria for the distribution of funds and are complete. Incomplete applicants are emailed and asked to resubmit an application. Ineligible applicants are informed they are not eligible for funding. Complete, eligible applications are then reviewed by teams of two using a three-point scale. When scores disagree, a third reader is assigned to ensure appropriate scoring. Requests for funding are evaluated based on student need and available funding, and we are committed to doing so quickly. If a grant is approved, students will receive an email the week of May 27 at their Holy Family email account letting them know they are approved for a federal emergency grant and the amount. Funds will be disbursed in June via check or ACH deposit. Students who are not eligible, or whose application for emergency aid is not approved, will also be notified via email during the same time period.
Holy Family University students were emailed on May 4, 2020, and the following information was included in that communication. First, students were informed that the University had received approximately $2 million through the CARES Act and that approximately $1 million was now available for student aid in grants of up to $1,500 per student. Students were informed that in order to be eligible for emergency aid, they had to have received federal student aid (if enrolled as an undergraduate student) or federal student loans (if enrolled as a graduate student) and that their Estimated Family Contribution had to be less than $15,000. Students were also advised that the emergency financial aid was intended to offset expenses that resulted from the disruption of campus operations.
A link to the application was provided in the email, and the submission deadline of May 18, 2020 was stated. Students were informed that they would hear about grant approval during the week of May 27, 2020. Information about setting up direct deposit was also provided in this email to students.
Similar messaging appeared on the University’s Learning Management System, and an abbreviated message is presented on the University website through a “pop-up” on any University page. After submitting an application, students are also redirected to an information page on the University website.