BREAKING: College announces grant money for most students through December COVID-19 relief deal

By Noah Jennings, Staff Reporter

After receiving funding from the federal government as part of December’s COVID-relief deal, the college will distribute approximately $3.17 million to eligible students. Kaylie Slack

The college announced federal grants through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act will be disbursed to students who are eligible beginning next month. 

In a Monday, Jan. 25 personalized email to students from Columbia Central, the college outlined the eligibility requirements and the process for students to receive the grant. 

Provided by the U.S. Department of Education, the guidelines for disbursement of the grants require that Columbia should “prioritize students with exceptional need” and “consider each student’s particular socioeconomic circumstances in the administration of these grants.”  

In order to qualify for the grant, students must be enrolled in at least one credit hour for the Spring 2021 semester at the time of disbursement and must file a 2020/21 Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as FAFSA, by Feb. 5 if they have not already done so. 

This is the FAFSA for the current school year, which most students would have filed prior to the start of the school year, according to Cynthia Grunden, assistant vice president for Student Financial Services. No additional paperwork is needed to receive the need-based grant for people whose current FAFSA is on file.

International students, undocumented students and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals students are not eligible for the grant, as the federal guidelines state only those able to apply for federal student aid are eligible. 

The biggest change between Columbia’s disbursement of the recent round of funding and last spring’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security or CARES Act is that different amounts of money will be given to Columbia students based on the Expected Family Contribution calculated on their FAFSA. 

Through the CARES Act, Columbia gave every eligible student $250 and also allowed for students to apply for need-based emergency grants, as reported by the Chronicle. Through the recent CRRSA funding, the college will give eligible students between $250 and $800, while still allowing for additional emergency grant applications beginning on Feb. 22. 

According to the email, eligible students with a nine month Expected Family Contribution of $0-$10,000 will receive an $800 grant; those with an expected contribution of $10,000-$20,000 will receive $500; students in the $20,001-$30,000 category will receive $350; and those with an expected contribution of $30,001 and higher will receive $250. 

The college has approximately $3.17 million to distribute to students, the same amount it had to distribute after the CARES Act in March 2020, according to the email. 

While the CARES Act in the spring required schools to give at least half of the funds it received directly to students, the recent CRRSA Act only requires schools to distribute at least the same dollar amount to students as it did during the first round of pandemic-related relief funding.

The total money the college is receiving from the CRRSA Act is $9.79 million, up from the $6.3 million provided by the CARES Act last spring, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education

That leaves approximately $6.62 million in relief funds for the college after the disbursement of grants next month. In a Dec. 11 email from President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim, he said the college is operating this fiscal year with a $34 million deficit. 

The institutional funds can be used for a wide range of purposes, “including replacing lost revenue or paying for new expenses,” according to a summary of the appropriations act by the American Council on Education. 

The Jan. 25 email said grants are anticipated to be disbursed to eligible students no later than Feb. 19. 

More updates to come.