On March 27, 2020 the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) was signed into federal law. Included in the Act was the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) to support college students whose education was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic with financial grants. These emergency grants are intended to assist students with unanticipated expenses for food, housing, academic course materials, technology, health care and childcare.
Norwich University applied for and received funding under this program and used no less than half the amount, or $1,002,307, for emergency financial grants to students. Per Department of Education (DOE) guidance, the university made direct cash grants to students. Grants were prioritized based on socioeconomic circumstance. Students must have met federal eligibility requirements and could not have been exclusively enrolled in an online program prior to March 13, 2020 in order to qualify to receive HEERF emergency funds. The university has distributed $1,002,307 to 955 students. This represents approximately 46% of the 2,095 CARES eligible students.
Following the parameters of DOE guidance, Norwich created its eligibility calculation using the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Grants were provided to students who met federal eligibility criteria and had an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) of $10,972 or less. Eligible expenses were calculated using the average daily national reimbursement rate as defined by the federal government for room, meals, and incidentals. This total average daily rate of $151 was multiplied by the number of days students were not able to remain on campus for the spring semester (57 days), for a total cost proxy of $8,607. Eligible students received a percentage of this proxy in an amount of $880, $1,050, or $1,200 depending on their EFC.
These funds are emergency relief grants provided by the federal government and are not considered to be part of a student’s typical financial aid package. Additionally, per the Internal Revenue Service, these funds are categorized as disaster relief payments under section 130 of the Internal Revenue Code and are excluded from taxable income.
Every student who was enrolled on March 13, 2020 in a residential program received an email notice regarding how the CARES program impacts them. Students were provided with the option to decline the grant if they were an eligible recipient.