Local community colleges get millions for aid payments to students

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File – From left, Vice President of Student Services at Mesa College Dr. Ashanti Hands and President of Mesa College Dr. Pamela Luster. (Photo: San Diego Community College District)

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – More than $97 million in federal COVID-19 relief money is available for the San Diego Community College District thanks to the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, it was announced Friday.

The district’s Board of Trustees voted to accept the additional federal funding Thursday night and announced Friday a minimum of $38 million will be provided in direct aid payments to help students financially impacted by the pandemic.

Direct aid to students will be provided for food, housing, child care, health care or student fees to allow students to continue with their education during the crisis. The SDCCD and San Diego City, Mesa, and Miramar colleges, and the San Diego College of Continuing Education will use the remaining funds for additional expenses incurred during the pandemic, including the costs associated with transitioning to online instruction, purchasing laptops for students, additional student support services and impact of lost revenue.

“The SDCCD is grateful for the additional infusion of federal funding,” SDCCD Chancellor Constance Carroll said. “These funds are needed to help students continue their studies and stay enrolled while supporting them in navigating the economic challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. They will also help the district cope with the myriad costs associated with the massive conversion to online instruction and remote operations.”

The federal government has specific requirements as to when funds must be fully used and for what purposes, and requires quarterly status reports as the funds are spent.

Students will soon receive emails inviting them to complete an SDCCD Student Relief Form Application for HEERF dollars. Students must be enrolled this spring and priority will be given to those with exceptional financial need, such as those who receive federal Pell grants.

SDCCD officials say the need is considerable. Nearly 60% of students at Mesa College, 54% of Miramar College students and 48% of City College students surveyed last year said they were suffering through a loss of income because of the pandemic.

Emergency funds will not affect a student’s current or future ability to receive financial aid such as scholarship or grants, district officials said.

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