With a large amount of the student population at Oregon State University now facing economic hardships due to COVID-19, the university is offering a federal grant to supply students with emergency aid, though not every student is eligible, nor will every person who applies be granted aid.
The CARES Act is federal aid granted to the state of Oregon with approximately $1.2 billion to distribute within local educational agencies statewide, and $7.7 million going directly to OSU. On April 30, OSU administration was notified that the funding was available, and by May 4, would be accessible to students.
“The funds are for emergency aid [for] students to cover additional expenses-related costs incurred from campus disruptions due to COVID-19,” said Keith Raab, director of Financial Aid. “You must be eligible for Title IV aid, [which] means you must be able to successfully file a FAFSA.”
Due to the regulations surrounding eligibility for the grant, international, undocumented and DACA students are not eligible to apply for the grant. There are also restrictions placed on students who are enrolled exclusively in Ecampus courses.
“The issue with federal programs is that not everyone is eligible and not all students who need assistance will receive it,” said Isabel Núñez Pérez, Associated Students of Oregon State University president-elect. “Since assistance is based on FAFSA, there could be people who desperately need assistance but could not be receiving it because they are listed as a dependent and it does not reflect their true financial needs.”
Most of the requirements for the distribution of the grant were laid out by federal jurisdiction and the U.S. Department of Education, but financial aid administrators were tasked with creating a way to properly allocate the grant to students. ASOSU student leaders were notified of the grant and allocation plan before being confirmed with the Vice Provost for Enrollment, Jon Boeckenstedt.
“It’s unfortunate that the government allocation is so small, and the need is so great,” Boeckenstedt said. “We won’t have enough funds to cover every request, and are going to be looking at Beavers Care money to help bridge the gap.”
Beavers Care is available to both students and faculty members within the OSU community, holding no restrictions against eligibility to apply. Through the foundation, students can receive anywhere from $500 to $4,000 in immediate aid.
The COVID-19 Disaster Relief fund offers a separate application in which faculty and staff can apply for tax-free aid assistance. The fund prioritizes faculty with the lowest income first and assesses applications on a weekly basis.
A grant has also been awarded to students who previously relied on federal work-study funds for a source of income, and have since lost those jobs due to COVID-19. The maximum amount awarded by the FSEOG grant is $1,000 to supplement spring term earnings.
As far as the next steps to allow more people to qualify for emergency aid, Núñez Pérez said the ASOSU President and Government Relations teams are working to talk to stakeholders about the ways they can better provide assistance.
“They are also working on communicating with the state and federal representatives of the university on pushing these advocacy priorities regarding students and populations that are being left out of the CARES act,” Núñez Pérez said.