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 child care.
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, 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.
Institutional Portion of the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund
Norwich University reviewed, signed, and returned the U.S. Department of Education’s Certification and Agreement for the Institutional Portion of HEERF funds on July 1, 2020. We received our grant award notification on July 2, 2020. On July 2, 2020, Norwich requested an additional $1,002,307 under Section 18004(a)(1) and 18004(c) of the CARES Act. In accordance with Section 18004(c), Norwich University will use the institutional portion of the CARES HEERF funding to defray costs associated with significant changes to the delivery of instruction due to the coronavirus. The funding will be used in support of health and safety measures dedicated to managing the risk of coronavirus on our campus during Academic Year 2020-21.
To date, the university has spent approximately $400,000 on health and safety initiatives. Any unspent funds will be used to reimburse the university for costs related to refunds made to students for housing, food, and other services the university could no longer provide when we transitioned to remote instruction in March 2020 to mitigate the university community’s risk of contracting the coronavirus. This reduction in revenue was approximately $2.9 million.
Funds will not be used for payments to contractors for the provision of pre-enrollment activities, including marketing and advertising; endowments; or capital outlays associated with facilities related to athletics, sectarian instruction or religious worship.