West Chester University of Pennsylvania
Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Securities Act (CARES Act)
Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) Report
Reporting as of April 1, 2021*
HEERF 1: West Chester University of Pennsylvania (WCU) received federal funding under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. These grants provide emergency relief funds to organizations and individuals affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF), found in Section 18004 of the CARES Act, provides funding to institutions of higher education “to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.” The information below is intended not only to meet the reporting requirements of the CARES Act but also provide information to our community regarding West Chester University’s use of the student grant portion of the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund.
HEERF II: West Chester University of Pennsylvania (WCU) received additional federal funding under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA). The U.S. Department of Education has expanded upon guidance previously provided under CARES for awarding of HEERF II funds to include the ability to award students who are exclusively in distance education courses and for the use of direct cost of attendance expenditures. However, CRRSAA also stipulates that funding should be prioritized with those who have exceptional need such as students who receive Pell grants and balances can only be paid with student grant funding if the institution collects written consent from the student.
*Note: West Chester University is facing a temporary system outage due to a cyber security threat during the week of this reporting period. Therefore, figures were collected and reported based on the historical awarding and eligibility information that is accessible at this time. Once systems have been restored a revised report with updated data will be provided.
WCU President Christopher Fiorentino signed and returned to the U.S. Department of Education the Certification and Agreement form that was required to receive the HEERF funds. WCU will use no less than 50% of the total amount of funds received under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act to provide Emergency Financial Aid Grants to students. This stipulation was also signed and agreed upon in response to CRRSAA requirements which state under section 314(a)(1) that institutions are to provide the same amount of funding in financial aid grants to students this was required to provide under its original student aid portion.
WCU was allocated $5,996,058.00 in HEERF I from the U.S. Department of Education pursuant to WCU’s Certification and Agreement for Emergency Financial Aid Grants to Students.
An additional $5,996,058.00 was certified for use from HEERF II funds from the U.S. Department of Education via the CRRSAA certification procedures.
As of this this report, the full allocation of HEERF I funding in the amount of $5,996,058 had been distributed under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act.
As of today, $5,260,500.00 of HEERF II funding has been awarded under Section 314(a)(1).
For the Spring 2020 semester, an estimated 10,584 students at West Chester University were eligible to participate in programs under Section 484 in Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 and thus eligible to receive Emergency Financial Aid Grants under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act. For the Fall 2020 semester and Winter 2020 terms, an estimated 9,782 students were eligible. As a result, the correct amount disbursed by the deadline of this quarterly report was $5,989,008. 5054 students received an Emergency Financial Aid Grant under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act.
For the HEERF II allocation current known count of eligible students is in line with what was previously reported under the CARES Act review. This figure may be adjusted once WCU is able to access systems and run reports based on expanded eligibility criteria under CRRSAA.
Methods Used to Determine Students’ Eligibility
Spring/Summer 2020 Awarding Methodology
Students who had no other housing or meal options and remained on campus after March 16 for various reasons related to the coronavirus pandemic and those who had no other housing and food options during the Summer 2020 semester were awarded funds to defray their room and board expenses. Additionally, WCU developed an online application for students to apply for Emergency CARES Act Grants. Students who met eligibility criteria under Section 484 in Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 requested funds for food, housing, course materials, technology, health care, and child care expenses. Students enrolled in the Spring 2020 semester who were not eligible for Federal Pell Grants were awarded their requested amount up to a maximum of $750. Students enrolled in the Spring 2020 semester who were eligible for Federal Pell Grants were awarded their requested amount up to a maximum of $1,000.
Students could also indicate on the application that they had exceptional expenses above the $750/$1,000 maximum.
On May 22, 2020, based on guidance published by the U.S. Department of Education, WCU discontinued requiring Title IV eligibility for HEERF funds. On June 11, WCU resumed requiring Title IV eligibility in compliance with the Final Interim Rule published in the Federal Register on that date.
On June 1, 2020, WCU also opened a separate application for students with exceptional expenses beyond the $750/$1,000 limit and began awarding additional funds to these students. Students who indicated exceptional expenses on their initial application were reviewed first and additional funds were awarded.
Fall/Winter 2020 Awarding Methodology
For Fall 2020, West Chester University focused on assisting students who incurred additional expenses from signing leases for off-campus housing, anticipating that classes would resume to an in-person modality. Most students who signed leases for off-campus housing were unable to terminate their lease when it was determined that most classes would be taught through distance learning modalities.
A CARES Act Rent Relief application was opened. Students who applied by the published deadline, were enrolled for the Fall 2020 semester, were Title IV eligible, and were not enrolled in a 100% online academic program were determined eligible. Each eligible applicant was awarded $1,100 to help offset their additional Fall semester housing expenses.
On September 9th, 2020 a CARES Act Emergency Appeal Application was opened and sent to students who had reached out to different offices on campus explaining their need for financial support in relation to COVID-19. Awards were granted up to $1000 to eligible students who were determined to be title IV eligible based on their current FAFSA information. These funds are being posted as refunds to students fall 2020 accounts.
After the fall 2020 application closed, a separate winter emergency appeal application was opened on November 6th 2020 for students who submitted appeal for either additional assistance or new assistance as a result of being impacted by the covid-19 pandemic. These appeals came through multiple offices on campus as well as in response to a survey that was sent out and asked if students were facing financial difficulties. Students were confirmed to be title IV eligible and have continuous enrollment before their applications were approved.
Spring 2021 Awarding Methodology for HEERF II
Students were informed on a public webpage titled “Emergency Funding” on WCU Covid-19 response section of the website of new eligibility criteria, application process, and award amounts as part of HEERF II distribution. On February 16, 2021 all active students were invited to apply for emergency funding made available through CRRSAA. The application was housed in our web based scholarship manager platform. Students were informed to be eligible for funding they are required to have a 2021 FAFSA on file in order to certify citizenship or eligible non-citizenship status as well as be enrolled in coursework during the spring 2021 term. However, students did not have to self-report or verify this information on the application since these data elements were being pulled into the application from the university’s PeopleSoft system. Students who met the criteria of the funds and completed an application were awarded $1500 if they had a Pell eligible EFC and $1000 if they had an EFC on the 2021 FAFSA that was ineligible for federal Pell grant funding. Students awards were credited as direct refund payments and would bypass any existing balance on their WCU account.
Instructions to Students
Students were notified of the availability of funds, eligibility criteria, and application instructions as follows:
An email message was sent to students enrolled in the spring 2020 semester who were identified as being eligible to participate in programs under Section 484 in Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 and thus eligible to receive Emergency Financial Aid Grants to students under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act. Additionally, a web release was published on the WCU website, along with a Frequently Asked Questions page.
An email message was sent to students enrolled in the Fall 2020 semester, had filed a FAFSA indicating that they would be living off-campus, met WCU’s Satisfactory Academic Progress requirements, and were not enrolled in a 100% online academic program. The WCU website was also updated with information regarding the application process.
For students requesting to be considered for the CARES Emergency Appeal Application, students were emailed a direct link to the application. Within the introduction of the application, students were informed they had to have a FAFSA on file for 2020-21, be enrolled for the current fall semester, and meet title IV eligibility requirements including WCU’s Satisfactory Academic Progress requirements.
A separate winter emergency appeal application was used for students who submitted appeal for either additional assistance or new assistance as a result of being impacted by the covid-19 pandemic. These funds were awarded until January 6, 2021 but posted to fall 2020 accounts (as the spring term had not started at the time of awards). On January 6, 2021 the full allotment of the CARES Act funding was spent for total of $5,996,058 and therefore any outstanding requests were notified they would be contacted if future stimulus became available.
Students who were awarded funds from either one of the Fall 2020 applications or the winter appeal application were notified of the award via an email message that includes the estimated timeframe that they will receive funds. For students who have provided direct deposit information, funds are provided via ACH to their bank account. Otherwise, a check was generated and mailed to the student.
For HEERF II funding, all active students were sent an email communication from Financial Aid asking them to complete an online application and the 2021 FAFSA in order to be considered for funds. A copy of these email instructions can be found below:
From: Financial Aid
Sent: Tuesday, February 16, 2021 2:31 PM
To: WCU-All Active Students
Subject: Application for Emergency Funding
Dear WCU Golden Ram,
West Chester University received another allocation of Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds (HEERF II), authorized by the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021 (CRRSAA). The first allocation was authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES). These monies are to help WCU students who have unexpected expenses due to the pandemic.
WCU created an application if you wish to apply for consideration.
In order to be eligible for these funds you must:
- Be currently enrolled in the Spring 2021 semester
- Be a U.S. Citizen or Eligible Non-Citizen for Title IV Aid
- Have a 2020-2021 FAFSA on file (which can be filed at studentaid.gov/fafsa).