In January, the U.S. Department of Education announced additional funding under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021 (CRRSAA) for Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund II (HEERF II). The funding is allocated to ensure learning continues during the COVID-19 pandemic at colleges and universities. Saint Mary’s University has been awarded a total allocation of $2.8 million for 2021, with $830,548 allocated for student grants that prioritize students with exceptional financial need, such as those qualifying for Federal Pell grants. The remaining funds are allocated for institutional expenses related to COVID-19 operations.
Federal guidance on the utilization of the CRRSAA funds was not received from the Department of Education until last Friday, March 19. Saint Mary’s prioritized the issuance of student grants and will now focus on reviewing the parameters governing the utilization of the institutional portion of the funds.
Similar to the CARES Act, passed in March 2020, Saint Mary’s University will direct its student grants to undergraduate students, most of whom are not eligible for other forms of relief under CRRSAA.
Saint Mary’s is allocating student grant awards on the basis of economic need, defined as the student’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC) calculated by the 2020-2021 FAFSA. Grants will be issued in amounts ranging from $750 to $2,000 for full-time students and $375 to $1,000 for part-time students. Student grants totaling $845,625 will be disbursed to 815 eligible students on March 24, 2021.
The Federal Department of Education provided guidance and parameters for distributing the student grants under CRRSAA:
- Funds are restricted to Title IV eligible students.
- Funds are to be prioritized for students with exceptional need, such as those qualifying for Federal Pell grants.
- Funds can only be retained on student accounts by colleges and universities with the students authorization.
- Funds are not taxable as income to the recipients.
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, passed on March 11, contains additional funding for higher education. Saint Mary’s has not yet received an award notification of its allocation under the Act. Similar to the allocation of the CRRSAA funds, once guidance is available, Saint Mary’s will develop a plan to utilize the funds within the federal guidelines.