Local college/university presidents plan to spent $146M in federal COVID-19 relief money helping students stay in school
Tuition assistance, pandemic-related expenses and technology accessibility are among the things colleges and universities in the 6th and 11th congressional districts plan to use the combined $146 million they’ve received under the federal American Rescue Plan Act.
Several local school leaders, joined by U.S. Reps. Sean Casten, D-Downers Grove, and Bill Foster, D-Naperville, gathered Friday to discuss how the funding will help them cover expenses and programs tied to the pandemic.
“It would have been unacceptable to let these institutions and their students buckle under the serious financial strain of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Foster said during the virtual event. “Our colleges and universities are essential to preparing students for building back up every economy and a stronger world after COVID.”
President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan stimulus funding included more than $36 billion in emergency grants for post-secondary schools to provide emergency financial aid to students and institutional support for continuing operations in a pandemic. It is the third round of aid given to colleges and universities since last year.
Locally, this included:
- $36.5 million for College of DuPage;
- $6.5 million for North Central College;
- $13.7 million for Aurora University;
- $13.5 million for Waubonsee Community College;
- $17.5 million for Elgin Community College.
College of DuPage will allocate $18.5 million of its share for tuition assistance, school President Brian Caputo said. They’ll also be using some of it to pay for COVID-19-related they’ve incurred, he said.
“Some of the rules relating to this third wave of stimulus money are still being worked out,” Caputo said. “Consequently, we’re sort of holding back on exactly what the parameters will be (using) but we expect they will be similar to the two prior structures, that is, some sort of need-based formula.”
Naila Sabahat, College of DuPage Board’s student trustee, said some students are experiencing tough financial difficulties and are being forced to make hard decisions, such as whether to stay in school or find a second jobs to help pay tuition.
“We are grateful as students and as an institution for this additional funding. It will play a huge role in the future of our students,” Sabahat said.
David Sam, president of Elgin Community College, welcomed the looser requirements for American Rescue Plan dollar recipients.
“More students than ever before can receive these funds,” Sam said. “During the first two rounds, we identified students who needed funds but because of the restrictions we were not able to help.”
ECC students will receive information soon as to how they can apply for money, he said.
“Direct emails to them, phone calls for those who qualify, things on our Facebook and our Twitter and everything — students will know,” Sam said.
At Waubonsee Community College, funds will be used to retain students and help them graduate as well as “reenergize those students who have taken a break or stepped out, if you will, during the pandemic due to many financial barriers,” President Christine Sobek said.
Previous COVID-19 emergency funding provided money to help more than 2,800 Waubonsee students purchase notebook computers, hotspots, cameras and other software or hardware. Sobek said they plan to continue this type of program.
“This amazing federal funding and support we’ve received has allowed us to provide support to so many deserving students and their families during these unprecedented times,” she said.