Due to COVID-19, students in financial need are being supplied with funds from the United States Department of Education (DOE). According to Doug Frood, associate vice president for Financial Administration, Southern is in the process of distributing $1.9 million from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF).
As explained by Paula Walters, director for Student Finance, the money is distributed in four financial brackets based on loan debt, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and grant eligibility. While having a FAFSA on file is not required to qualify for funds, 90% of students who receive aid will have completed their FAFSA.
Students not eligible include international students, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and undocumented students.
Students will receive either $250, $500, $700 or $1,100, according to financial stability, amount of loans taken out or loan debt, and financial standing with FAFSA. An email with a form attached was sent to students who qualify. Students can decide to send the money directly to their bills, to have it in-pocket or to split the money between the two.
“The priority is for these funds to go to students with exceptional needs,” Walters said.
The DOE states the money should be used for “emergency costs that arise due to coronavirus, such as tuition, food, housing, health care (including mental health care) or child care.”
“I think the money from the government is a good thing,” said Anna Estep, sophomore education major. “As broke college students, we’re happy to get any bit of money we can to help with our expenses.”
According to Frood, Southern received $3.8 million from HEERF, and the university aims to give students half of that money. By law, Southern is required to give $1.2 million to students. After that money has been distributed, Southern will start looking to distribute additional funds.
“We will start looking at things in terms of having made an advance on another $700,000, because we’re aiming for $1.9 million,” Frood said.
The $1.9 million set aside for the school is being used to fund extra nurses, health screeners and cleaning supplies, and to keep faculty employed whose jobs were endangered by COVID-19, according to Frood.
“This is helping the university get through this and probably come out of it in a very good position,” Frood said.