More money for students? UW eligible to receive $60 million in federal relief funds | News

$19.7 million from stimulus package to go directly to students for financial relief


The UW is set to receive nearly $60 million after Congress passed a coronavirus relief bill in December, providing additional funding to the Department of Education for its Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (aka HEERF II), according to vice provost for planning & budgeting Sarah Norris Hall.

Last spring, the UW received more than $39 million after the first coronavirus stimulus package was passed. The funding was split into two allocations: $19.8 million was for student aid, while the remainder was for university expenses associated with pandemic response, according to Norris Hall.

Anticipating the incoming $60 million, the UW is looking into how these funds will be allocated and distributed. The new stimulus package will be divided into two main pipelines, much like the funds from HEERF I. A portion of the funding will go into emergency student aid, while the rest will go directly to the institution to pay off significant losses incurred because of the pandemic. 

“The first $20 million will be spent on student aid, per the Department of Education’s guidance to institutions of higher education,” Norris Hall wrote in an email. “The remaining funds may be spent on additional student aid, support for Student Life activities, including student mental health, housing/dining; learning and teaching support; capital expenses associated with cleaning and maintaining safe spaces as we hope to return to campus in the fall.” 

Once the university knows the amount Congress will require be spent in emergency grants to students, executive director of financial aid and scholarships Kay Lewis said the UW Office of Planning & Budgeting will consult with the university’s president and provost to determine how the remaining funds will be used.

“Besides not knowing the final amount of funds, we don’t know the special instructions Congress will require in terms of how we spend the funds, which students they intend the funds should go to,” Lewis said. “Last time they required we prioritize awards to students with exceptional financial need.”

Students who qualified for financial aid received $1,200 checks in the spring from the original relief package.

Instructions for student aid applications will be posted on the UW financial aid webpage once more information on funding is received. Students should file the FAFSA for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years so that the office has financial data on file to use when funds become available, Lewis said. 

“When the stimulus checks went out and the income thresholds [were disclosed], we used that as a means to calculate eligibility, and gave extra to students who have dependents,” Sarah Castro, director of the Office of Federal Relations, said. “We made sure to include DACA-eligible students as well.” 

This funding aims to support students so they can continue their education despite the many hardships caused by the pandemic. 

“We are working really hard to get as much money as we possibly can, and we are being as creative as possible about it,” Castro said. “We want to make sure our undergrad students are taken care of and able to continue their education, and make sure that graduate students still have access to research funding opportunities.”

Reach reporter Nicole Ursprunger at Twitter: @nicoleursp

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