Students need to apply by March 31 to be considered for the funds.
Time is ticking for Webster students to cash in on the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF II). On March 15, students were notified via email that certain students may be eligible for a grant up to $1,000 for undergraduates or $500 for graduates.
“The last version of this we did last year was called the CARES act,” dean of students John Buck said. “This is essentially the exact same thing but with a different name.”
Last year, students applied online for the CARES Act. When the new HEERF funds were released, a team of faculty at Webster immediately went to work to help distribute the money to students.
Vincent Flewellen, chief diversity officer, Jim Myers, director of financial aid, and Maggie Laur, a senior financial analyst and budget planner for the university all oversee the distribution process of HEERF funds. The four of them oversaw the process last summer as well.
Together, they have created the application process students will use to determine their eligibility for emergency funds. If approved, students can expect to see the money as soon as this week. For students like Aphrodite Broeker, the HEERF II grant could help them make up for work time lost due to COVID-19.
“COVID has limited my ability to work and I was unable to work for two weeks after being exposed, and when you’re paying for college that little bit is crucial,” Broeker said.
According to Buck, one of the main differences between the Cares Act and HEERF II is how it can be distributed to students. Previously, students were only given the option to receive the money directly to their bank account. Students can now choose to have the money added to their outstanding tuition balance.
With fall registration approaching, the emergency grant could help students pay off enough of their outstanding tuition to register for the upcoming semester.
“The goal is that we wanted to provide the opportunity for students to be able to register if they had an outstanding balance,” Buck said.
Despite the well-intentions, some students may miss out on this opportunity. The hard deadline for applications is March 31. The grants come on a first-come, first-served basis and no late applications are accepted. Although the deadline was designed with students in mind, there are some who criticize the quick turnover.
“Students are focused on all of their classes, their work, their families, their mental and physical health, and it would be incredibly easy for them to miss the grant application even though they desperately need it,” Broeker said.
Photography major Braden McMakin shares a similar message. He wants the money to end up in the hands of students that need it.
“I don’t see any significant reason to apply,” McMakin said. “I do think it’s more deserving to select people.”
All Webster students enrolled full-time are eligible to apply. McMakin, as well as many others, have opted to apply for the grant. According to Buck, as of March 18, at least 1,200 applications were already received from Webster students.
“What had happened last year with the CARES Act like is that we got all the applications in and awarded everyone who applied and still had money left over,” Buck said. “So we sent out another $300 out to every undergraduate.”
Buck said it is less likely this year that they will need to redistribute money after the first round of deposits. Every student is encouraged to apply online. Applications can be found in the connections 2.0 website.
“We really encourage students to apply. Even if they don’t think they’re going to get it, they should apply to get this funding because it is here from the government, for you to kind of help you return to college and continue at college,” Buck said.