Penn State to receive $55M from federal Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund

April 15, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State is slated to receive just shy of $55 million from the federal Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund as part of $14 billion in support for postsecondary institutions and their students under the recently passed Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, as announced by the U.S. Department of Education. Of that nearly $55 million, half of the money — or approximately $27.5 million — will be earmarked for emergency financial aid grants for Penn State students. 

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said on April 9 that the Department of Education would move to immediately distribute more than $6 billion to colleges and universities for emergency student financial aid. From its share of that funding, Penn State will be able to award cash grants to students to pay for expenses incurred related to COVID-19 disruptions, including course materials and technology, food, housing, health care and childcare. 

“We are grateful that the Department of Education has committed to disbursing these funds quickly, as we are eager to begin providing a measure of financial relief for our students who need it the most,” said Penn State President Eric Barron. “Our goal is to get this money into the hands of our students as quickly as possible, so that they can continue their studies with peace of mind.”

As required by the Department of Education, Penn State is in the process of submitting a certification form to receive the federal funds, and University leadership is appointing a task group to develop a plan for distributing the money to students. The group, which will be working on a tight deadline to begin disbursements as soon as possible, will include Student Affairs, the Office of Student Aid, the Bursar, the Graduate School, Commonwealth Campuses, World Campus, general counsel and additional broad representation. Details on how students can apply for the emergency aid will be shared broadly as soon as they are available. 

These federal dollars will supplement Penn State’s ongoing efforts to provide financial relief for students in need of assistance. Since the pandemic began, Penn State has already disbursed more than $113,000 from the Student Emergency Fund to 155 students who needed financial support for a variety of reasons. 

The Department of Education has indicated it will announce guidance for the second half of the funds allocated to postsecondary institutions — in Penn State’s case approximately $27.5 million — in the next two weeks. This funding is intended for direct institutional use to cover costs associated with changes to educational delivery and campus operations as a result of coronavirus disruptions. It is Penn State’s intention to use these federal stimulus funds to support employees and lessen the impacts of the pandemic on the University’s workforce. 

The $2.2 trillion CARES Act provides financial relief to individuals, health-care facilities and businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. As the bill was being drafted, Penn State’s federal relations team provided input to lawmakers, and the University was vocal in advocating for provisions in the bill that directly support students.  

“While Congress was crafting the CARES Act, we advocated to our congressional delegation for maximum support for higher education and students,” said Zack Moore, vice president for government and community relations. “We pushed for more funding for education, and in particular we lobbied for funding to help students impacted by the crisis. Our students always come first, and that’s something that Congress noted and addressed in the final bill.”

The CARES Act provides $31 billion overall for education aid at all levels, including $14 billion in funding to institutions of higher education and students. Penn State is continuing to advocate to Pennsylvania’s federal elected officials for additional funding via future stimulus packages to provide relief for our students and for the various University operations negatively impacted by the pandemic.

School allocations, according to the Department of Education, are set by a formula prescribed in the CARES Act that is weighted significantly by the number of full-time students who are Pell Grant-eligible but also takes into consideration the total population of the school, among other factors.

Last Updated May 07, 2020