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Westminster gives $2.6 million in emergency funds to students

Shown in the graph is the breakdown of the estimated 2020-2021 need-based scholarships and grants given to students. Westminster awarded approximately $22 million in need-based scholarships and grants, according to the common data set. Graphic courtesy of Lauren Shoughro.

Westminster College is allocating $2.56 million in Higher Education Emergency Funds, “HEERF III,” to students with financial need. The funds give qualifying students emergency grant money, which can be used for costs associated with tuition, rent and food expenses, according to a college announcement.

HEERF III is part of the American Rescue Plan and is the third installment of funding due to COVID-19. HEERF III gave $39 billion to institutions of higher education across the U.S. for institutional and student aid, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Unlike previous HEERF funds, international, undocumented and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals students are eligible to receive aid, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

“The fact that we’re giving almost 13 times as much money to some students than what the cap was previously [for past HEERF funds], we just want to make sure […] that we’re getting it to the right people,” said Joshua Montavon, Westminster’s director of financial aid.

The amount given to students for the emergency grants is determined by the expected family contribution number on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and is capped at $6,495 per student, according to Montavon.

If students have not filled out the FAFSA, they will need to go through the emergency grant application, which can be found on the college website. Those applying through the application without FAFSA will be eligible to receive up to $1,000, according to Montavon.

Maddy Breach, a junior custom major, received HEERF III funds for the Fall semester.

“Knowing that [the financial aid office has] so much money in grants is such a relief because now I’m like ‘Oh now I don’t have to take on that third, fourth, fifth job,’” said Breach, who was working anywhere from two to five jobs at a time to pay for tuition.

Shown in the graph is the number of full-time undergraduate students that received need-based financial aid. Of the 996 students that applied for aid, 844 received need-based scholarships and grants, according to the common data set. Graphic courtesy of Lauren Shoughro.

Still, some students were concerned about how they will continue to pay for tuition.

“[COVID-19] has made it difficult for my parents to get jobs because my parents are the ones paying and helping me pay for school,” said Dominique Colipi, a junior neuroscience major. “For a point in time my tuition was [kind of] put on hold because I couldn’t pay for it.”

Colipi said she applied for the emergency grant but does not qualify for the FAFSA.

“I think it’s easy for students with FAFSA to get scholarships and to get really good eligibility for multiple things,” Colipi said. “I don’t think it’s as easy for students that are not eligible for FAFSA to get things.”

Montavon said the HEERF III funding would put money in the hands of students that needed it, but he wants to see more for future aid.

“I’m worried about the future because [HEERF III] doesn’t necessarily solve any future issues that come up, because it’s really just kind of like a one-time thing,” Montavon said. “[I want to] continue to work with the advancement office on what kind of opportunities we can develop to help make school more affordable — what kind of scholarships that we can do.”

Shown in the graph is the percentage of students that applied to need-based aid. The average amount of need-based aid awarded was approximately $26,316, according to the common data set. Graphic courtesy of Lauren Shoughro.

One way COVID-19 relief funding for students has been raised is through the Office of Advancement, which works with alumni, faculty, staff and other outside organizations to bring in financial support for the college, according to Daniel Lewis, vice president of institutional advancement.

Over the past year and a half, the Office of Advancement has raised over $225,000 for COVID-19 relief, which will go to supporting scholarships for students affected by COVID-19, as well as food and housing relief, according to Lewis.

“What advancement is trying to do […] is to expand the ways we can reach people across campus and make them a part of what we’re doing,” Lewis said. “The heart of what we’re doing is we’re trying to provide resources for our students and faculty to be as successful as they can at Westminster College.”

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