CARES Act Funds

Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) Reporting: Emergency Financial Aid Grants to Students
St. Olaf College 30-Day Fund Report
Posting Date:  May 19, 2020
Overview:

Section 18004(e) of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act” or the “Act”)), Pub. L. No. 116-136, 134 Stat. 281 (March 27, 2020), directs institutions receiving funds under Section 18004 of the Act to submit (in a time and manner required by the Secretary) a report to the Secretary describing the use of funds distributed from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (“HEERF”).

On May 6, 2020, the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Education posted their reporting requirements for HEERF participating institutions.

Each HEERF participating institution is responsible for providing this information in report format (the “30-day Fund Report”). In addition, these participating institutions are required to post the information listed below on the institution’s primary website. Accordingly, the following information will be easily accessible to the public and made available 30 days after the date when the institution received its allocation under 18004(a)(1) and updated every 45 days thereafter.

St. Olaf College hereby addresses questions for the “30-day Fund Report”:

  1. An acknowledgement that the institution signed and returned to the Department the Certification and Agreement and the assurance that the institution has used, or intends to use, no less than 50 percent of the funds received under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act to provide Emergency Financial Aid Grants to students.
    • St. Olaf College Response: On April 10, 2020 St. Olaf College signed and returned to the Department of Education the Certificate and Agreement that the College intends to use no less than 50 percent of the funds received under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act to provide Emergency Financial Aid Grants to students.
  2. The total amount of funds that the institution will receive or has received from the Department pursuant to the institution’s Certification and Agreement [for] Emergency Financial Aid Grants to Students.
    • St. Olaf College Response: St. Olaf College has received $1,083,532 from the Department of Education pursuant to the Certification and Agreement for Emergency Financial Aid Grants to Students.
  3. The total amount of Emergency Financial Aid Grants distributed to students under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act as of the date of submission (i.e., as of the 30-day Report and every 45 days thereafter).
    • St. Olaf College Response: As of May 19, 2020, the college has not made any distributions to students. Our plan is to distribute grants to students the week of May 25, 2020.
  4. The estimated total number of students at the institution 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.
    • St. Olaf College Response:  The college estimates the number of students eligible to participate in the emergency grant program is 2,123.
  5. The total number of students who have received an Emergency Financial Aid Grant to students under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act.
    • St. Olaf College Response:  As of May 19, 2020, no students have been awarded an emergency Financial Aid Grant from the CARES Act. Our plan is to distribute grants to students the week of May 25, 2020.
  6. The method(s) used by the institution to determine which students receive Emergency Financial Aid Grants and how much they would receive under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act.
    • St. Olaf College Response: According to the Department of Education, “only students who are or could be eligible to participate in programs under Section 484 in Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (HEA), may receive emergency financial aid grants. If a student has filed a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), then the student has demonstrated eligibility to participate in programs under Section 484 the HEA.” Due to this guidance, the college considered an eligible student to be one that completed a FAFSA in the 19-20 Academic Year.

      The amount that each eligible student will receive is $450. This was determined by taking the total amount of the student portion divided by the number of eligible students. Approximately $125k was left unallocated to be distributed directly to impacted students over the course of the next year.

  7. Any instructions, directions, or guidance provided by the institution to students concerning the Emergency Financial Aid Grants.
    • St. Olaf College Response: The college maintains a COVID-19 website which includes Frequently Asked Questions and provides access to information including the Emergency Relief Grants. The website directs users to submit questions to coronavirusresponse@stolaf.edu (via email). The email address is monitored daily and questions and/or concerns are promptly responded to. Several “all student” email messages have been distributed providing details of the CARES Act and administering funds for Emergency Relief Grants.

Janet Hanson, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, distributed the following information to students on May 18, 2020 via email:

Dear Students,

On May 5 I emailed about the CARES Act Emergency Student Grant funding that St. Olaf had received, and I promised to provide additional information on the distribution of that funding when it was known. This email contains that additional information. Please read on.

Amount to be received by each eligible recipient: Each CARES grant is $450. In order to make this distribution as simple as possible, the decision was made to avoid an application process and instead do an across-the-board distribution with each grant recipient receiving the same amount.

How were eligible students determined? CARES funding is only available to those students who are eligible to receive Title IV funding as defined by the Department of Education. The Department of Education has indicated that the best indicator of eligibility for Title IV funding is the completion of a FAFSA form. Those students who completed a FAFSA form for the 2019-20 academic year were considered for the CARES grants. This includes students who are living on or off campus and those who will be graduating this spring. International and DACA students are not eligible to apply for federal financial aid and are therefore not eligible to receive the CARES grants.

When and how will the CARES grants be distributed? The CARES grants will be processed through student accounts during the week of May 25, 2020. These funds will be shown as a pass-through transaction on the student account, meaning there will be a transaction reflecting the CARES Act funding to the student and an off-setting transaction reflecting the grant being distributed as a check or direct deposit. The CARES grant cannot be used to offset any outstanding student account balances.

The College will use the student banking information on file to process the direct deposit transactions. If this has not been previously done, or students would like to make a change to their direct deposit information, students may submit a completed Payment Authorization Form through our secure document exchange by Friday, May 22. If there is no banking information on file, checks will be mailed to the student’s home address.

Students can check their student account balance to determine if they’ve been awarded a CARES grant. The CARES grant award will be shown on the student account as “CARES Grant Student Award.” If you think you should have received a CARES grant but are not seeing it on your student account record, you can contact Student Accounts at tuition@stolaf.edu or 507-786-3296.

Are the CARES grants taxable income to the student? No, the IRS determined that these grants will not be taxable income to the students.

The College has set aside a small portion of the funding to address student expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to COVID-19 that may be identified during the summer. This pool of money will be distributed to students following the CARES grants guidelines.  Eligible expenses are those included under a student’s cost of attendance such as food, housing, course materials, technology, health care, and child care. The parameters surrounding how these funds will be distributed to eligible students are still being evaluated and will be communicated when we have those guidelines established.

Thank you for your patience as we’ve worked through the details of distributing these CARES grants.

Best,
Jan


Janet Hanson, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, distributed the following information to students on May 5, 2020 via email:

Dear Students,

The College has received just over $1M from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) act. The CARES funding is meant to provide emergency financial aid grants to students for expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to COVID. Eligible expenses are those included under a student’s cost of attendance such as food, housing, course materials, technology, healthcare and child care. The majority of this funding will be distributed across the board to students who are eligible to receive federal financial aid as defined by the Department of Education. A small portion of the funding will be set aside to address extraordinary eligible expenses and expenses that may be identified as a result of summer activities. This funding will be distributed as soon as we have the number of eligible students identified and the mechanism in place to distribute the funds. I expect the distribution will use the student account system as the pass-through entity to issue payments to the students. These funds will go directly to students and will not be held by the campus. We’re still working out the details on processing the grants, so please be patient as we work through this process. My goal is to have these funds in students’ hands within the next several weeks.

We know these grants are important to our students and we’ll provide more detailed information as it becomes known and as we get ready to distribute the funds.

Regards,

Jan