West Chester University of Pennsylvania
Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Securities Act (CARES Act)
Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) Report
Reporting as of January 8, 2021: Revision February 15, 2021
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.
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.
WCU was allocated $5,996,058.00 from the U.S. Department of Education pursuant to WCU’s Certification and Agreement for Emergency Financial Aid Grants to Students.
As of the initial review for this report, the full allocation of funding in the amount of $5,996,058 had been distributed under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act. However, compiling data and reconciling accounts as part of the annual report uncovered an inaccuracy in the original disbursement number. As a result, the correct amount disbursed by the deadline of this quarterly report was $5,989,008.
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.
As of the date of this report, 5054 (previously reported as 5057) students have received an Emergency Financial Aid Grant under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act.
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.
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.