Congress approved the $2.2 billion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which includes $14.2 billion in assistance to support colleges and universities through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund.
Amanda Nipp, vice president of Student Services, said Northeast Community College is able to access $1.7 million through the act, with a minimum of $864,000 to be awarded in the form of emergency aid to students that will assist them with costs associated with the Coronavirus pandemic. As of April 30, Northeast has had 261 students complete the Request Assistance form on the College’s COVID-19 website.
“These funds are to be used to provide emergency financial grants to students for expenses related to the disruption of campus operations during the Spring 2020 semester due to COVID-19,” Nipp said.
This includes items such as computers or software, gas money to get to a place that offers Wi-Fi, funds to assist with internet access, food, housing, and health care, among others. A majority of the requests from Northeast students is for financial assistance and technology needs.
Northeast Community College created a request assistance form on the institution’s website so students could inform staff if they had questions or if they were struggling and needed assistance.
Nipp said one student who applied for the emergency assistance had previously lived on Northeast’s Norfolk campus with a meal plan and now lives at home.
“The student said he went from eating all that he needed on campus to being extremely limited in the amount of food he could eat at home. His family could not afford to pay for his food in addition to food for the rest of his family,” she said. “The student said they do not have enough food to eat, so this extra money will assist in covering his food expenses so there is more for the rest of the family.”
Nipp said another student said they will use the emergency assistance to allow them to complete their studies online. Presently, the student is using her cell phone to complete class assignments and requested funds to purchase a laptop. Other students will use the assistance for gas money so they can travel from their homes in rural areas to communities in order to use public Wi-Fi.
The legislation provides institutions with significant discretion on how to award this emergency assistance to students. This means that each college or university may develop its own system and processes for determining how to allocate these funds, which may include distributing aid to all students or only to students who demonstrate significant need.
In addition, Northeast has taken it upon itself to assist other students, many of whom may not eligible for the emergency assistance.
“We quickly realized that many of our students are struggling financially, and not all of them would be eligible for financial aid which is a requirement of the CARES Act funds, such as our international students, so we also made Northeast operational dollars as well as funds from the Northeast Foundation available in attempt to assist those students.”
For more information, go online at northeast.edu.