First round of CARES Act funding to provide cash grants for community college students

Students at community colleges will be eligible for cash grants to cover expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to COVID-19.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act will provide $30,750,000,000 to the nation’s K-12 and higher education systems in response to COVID-19. Of that, almost $14 billion will support postsecondary education students and institutions.

On April 9, 2020, Secretary DeVos sent this letter to community college presidents.

Here is the press release accompanying the letter, and here are additional resources including the required certificate of agreement community colleges will be executing with the department.

The letter from Secretary DeVos concerns the $6.28 billion (of the almost $14 billion) providing cash grants to students “to cover expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to coronavirus (including eligible expenses under a student’s cost of attendance, such as food, housing, course materials, technology, health care, and child care).” The U.S. Code defines “cost of attendance” to include tuition and fees.

The 58 community colleges across North Carolina will receive $120,073,308 in total, of which $60,036,669 is available now for student relief. The letter says, “We are prioritizing this funding stream in order to get money in the hands of students in need as quickly as possible.”

Here is more information on the formula for the allocations, which was prescribed by the CARES Act. This is how much each North Carolina community college will receive.

For context on this influx of student aid, the state’s need-based aid program — also known as the community college grant program — annually awards between $15-17 million in student aid, according to Jennifer Haygood, the chief of staff and executive vice president of the North Carolina Community College System.

The funds will be dispersed from the federal Department of Education directly to the community colleges. The community colleges are in the process of executing agreements with the department to begin the process of drawing down the funds.

The funds are not considered federal financial aid, and it appears they will be available to non-credit students. The funds must be spent within one year.

Colleges will have flexibility and discretion to determine how to distribute the funds to students, but they will have to file reports to the federal government 30 days after the agreement is executed and then every 45 days thereafter. The reports will document how the funds are distributed to students, the amount of each student grant, and any instructions provided to students.

The funds are conditioned on each community college continuing to pay all employees and contractors during COVID-19 to the extent practicable.

This article is about the second round of funding:

Please keep letting us know your questions by emailing me at mrash@ednc.org.

Mebane Rash is the CEO and editor-in-chief of EducationNC and the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research.

Ask & Answer Community Colleges Coronavirus The Editor's Notes