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Davis, California

Thursday, April 18, 2024

CARES Act provides aid to undergraduate, graduate students with demonstrated need

UC Davis will use institutional funds to give aid to undocumented, international students

UC Davis undergraduate and graduate students will be receiving emergency relief payments through the roughly $16.9 million the university has received through the CARES Act for such purposes.

The CARES Act is a federal bill passed in March to support the economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Students who are eligible for a part of the $16.9 million that UC Davis has will see it appear as a line item on their financial aid packages. 

Though the aid is listed as a “cost” toward the cost of attendance for “CARES Act Related Adjustments,” it will go directly to students if they have signed up for Direct Deposit. Otherwise, payments will be sent to the addresses students have on file. 

This financial aid is different from the payouts that were made to many U.S. citizens through the CARES Act, which many college students were ineligible for because they are over 17 and claimed as dependents by a parent or another person. 

Undergraduate students with demonstrated need will fall into three tiers: Pell Grant recipients receive $1,000, other students with grants receive $750 and students with demonstrated need but no state, institutional or federal loans receive $500. 

The $16.9 million being made available to students is part of the roughly $34 million given to UC Davis through the CARES Act, though per federal guidelines, the university was only mandated to put half of that amount toward emergency relief payment for students. The other $17 million, according to Kelly Ratliff, the vice chancellor of Finance, Operations and Administration, will go toward institutional expenses. 

The CARES Act, however, dictates that students receiving aid through the act must be Title IV eligible; undergraduates who are not U.S. citizens and do not meet the noncitizen standards to qualify for federal student aid are ineligible for the CARES Act money. 

UC Davis and all UC campuses, according to Chancellor Gary May, will be using institutional funds to help undocumented and DACA students with need.

Don Hunt, the assistant vice chancellor of Enrollment Management, added that international students will also be able to receive aid through an appeal basis. That process will be explained in an email sent out to all students early this week, Hunt said.

Graduate students with demonstrated need — regardless of citizenship status — will all be receiving a payment of $600 through a combination of CARES Act and institutional funds.

The Hope Center, an organization that says it is centered around college, community and justice, produced a guide to emergency grant aid distribution that outlines three principles for distribution: minimizing red tape for students, ensuring quick distribution and application processes and imposing the least administrative burden possible to maximize equity, impact and efficiency. The UC, along with the federal government, has released its own guidelines for use of CARES Act funds, though each university within the UC system has some flexibility regarding the distribution of the money.

Hunt said UC Davis decided on a non-application-based strategy in part due to estimations that the aid would reach around half of all undergraduate students because of the university population’s high need. UC Davis reported 71% of all students, undergraduate and graduate, received some type of aid during the 2018–19 academic year. 

“Our strategy was driven by two principles: How can we reach as many students as possible? And how can we do that while still giving students a reasonable amount of money?” Hunt said. “If we used circumstance-based requirements, the money would’ve run out and it would’ve been difficult to spread our funds as broadly as we should.”

Some higher education institutions, like Montgomery College, a community college with around 54,000 students, have decided to make students individually request aid. Montgomery College’s form requires students to give their name, ID number, funding needed, information for an advocate and a rationale for funding. Each student’s financial need will be evaluated based on the information the student gave and the responsiveness of the student’s advocate.

UC Davis’ Director of News and Media Relations Melissa Lutz Blouin said via email that the university experienced over $80 million in unanticipated losses over the past month. 

Ratliff said the financial losses were related to extra costs required to move the university to a remote environment, pay university staff and faculty, offer 600 loaner laptops to students, provide access to course materials without fees and backsell department fees. 

At least 100 of those laptops loaned to students were paid for through donations, according to a previous article published in The Aggie about the program.

Ratliff added that Student Housing anticipates at least $30 million in losses and said the university needed to allocate a portion of CARES Act funds there in order to prevent steeper fee increases in the future.

“The things we’ll do with CARES Act funds are related to the university mission, and some are connected to students at large,” Ratliff said.

Undocumented students can receive money through other non-federal sources. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a $75 million Disaster Relief Fund on April 15 that would support undocumented Californians who are ineligible for disaster relief due to their immigration status.

The press release from Newsom’s office states that around 150,000 undocumented adults in California will receive a one-time $500 per adult benefit, with a cap of $1,000 per household. The process will be application-based. 

Though there is currently a lawsuit against the fund, undocumented and DACA students will still be able to apply for grants through the AB540 and Undocumented Student Center on campus. 

Mayra Llamas, the executive director of the Community Resource and Retention Centers, said that even before the pandemic, the center had already facilitated emergency grants for students, which are application-based and restricted to once a year, with $500 being the maximum amount given out. 

As soon as the staff knew that remote instruction would be administered during Spring Quarter, they decided to increase their funding allocation for emergency grants, lifting the $500 cap and the once-a-year application restriction.

“We could immediately see the potential that students may need more aid due to wage loss, especially families and students losing their jobs, folks in Davis who were working in part-time jobs and for those whose jobs no longer existed,” Llamas said. 

Llamas added that the additional funding came from a reallocation from a mentorship and professional development program from the center that could no longer be hosted in the spring.

Llamas said the center has also been working with the Aggie Compass team to refer students to their resources, including a rent support grant, and that since January close to 65 students have been taking advantage of monthly food vouchers provided through the Basic Needs Program for students who don’t qualify for CalFresh.

“We are very open to supporting students as much as possible — we are offering emotional and legal support, but we’re seeing that students need that tangible support with their finances,” Llamas said. “Students are expressing to us that this [financial aid] is what they need right now.”

Ratliff echoed Llamas’ call for feedback.

“As decisions get made, I hope you’ll find that we’re very transparent,” Ratliff said. “If there’s something you want to know, just ask. There’s so much fear and so much for people to figure out and we want you all to have the best resources.” 

Written by: Janelle Marie Salanga — campus@theaggie.org


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