23,000 students to receive COVID relief grants in first of two rounds of funding

April 08, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State will award cash grants to more than 23,000 students under federal COVID-19 relief funding allocated to the University from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund II, part of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA) that was signed into law on Dec. 27, 2020.

The grants will be awarded to students based on financial need, as determined by data from the 2020-21 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Students who are Pell Grant-eligible will each be offered $1,200, and all other students identified for aid will be offered $1,000 grants. Those students who qualify for a grant will receive notification of their award via their Penn State email address from the Office of Student Aid, along with instructions to accept or decline the aid in LionPATH. The subject line on the email will be “CRRSAA Award.”

“The law directs us to prioritize those students with exceptional financial need, and it is our sincere hope that these critical funds will provide some measure of relief to our students who are most in need of assistance,” said Penn State President Eric J. Barron. “The University is thankful for this funding for students, and we look forward to getting it into our students’ hands quickly so that it can begin to ease financial strain and allow them to focus on their studies with less worry.”

Recognizing that not all students have completed a FAFSA, and knowing that some students and their families have experienced unexpected financial disruptions due to the pandemic, the University also will offer an application-based second round of funding to support students who were not identified to receive a grant in the first round. Additional details about the second round of funding will be announced in the near future. Students who are interested in applying for a second-round grant and have not yet filed a 2020-21 FAFSA are encouraged to do so now to help determine eligibility for these federal funds.

In total, the University will disburse to students at least $27.5 million of its nearly $85 million Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund II allocation, matching the dollar amount Penn State students received last year under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The funding can be used to cover any component of a student’s cost of attendance or for emergency costs that arise due to COVID-19, including tuition, housing, health care (including mental health care), and child care, provided that the expense was incurred on or after the start of the national COVID-19 emergency on March 13, 2020.

When accepting their grant, students will be required to affirm that the money will be used for eligible expenses in accordance with the CRRSAA. Students will be able to request a lower grant amount if their personal circumstances do not require the full award offer. Students also will be able to choose if they would like the money to be refunded to them directly, applied to an outstanding balance on their student account for spring 2021, or a combination of the two options.

The award framework was developed by a task group with broad representation from across the University. Grant recipients include undergraduate, graduate, law and medical students across all Penn State campuses, including Penn State World Campus students.

For those in need of additional assistance, Complete Penn State provides resources such as financial aid for students who are within one or two semesters of completing their first associate or bachelor’s degree and experience a situation that negatively impacts their ability to complete their degree. Eligible students are invited to request support here.

For assistance in navigating state and federal assistance programs, Student Affairs’ Guide to Public Assistance website can help. In addition, the Office of Student Care and Advocacy can assist students with financial issues and help students apply for the Student Emergency Fund. 

Penn State encourages any student experiencing mental health distress to reach out to local campus and community resources. For emergent mental health needs, Penn State’s 24/7 Crisis Line is available at 877-229-6400 for enrolled students or individuals concerned about enrolled students. The Penn State Crisis Text Line also is available for 24/7 mental health support by texting “LIONS” to 741741. Individuals supporting students can learn more about how to help students in distress via the University’s Red Folder website.

Answers to frequently asked questions about the CRRSAA student emergency grants are available on the University’s official coronavirus information website.

Penn State anticipates receiving additional COVID-19 relief funding from the nearly $40 billion that was allotted for higher education assistance under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, signed into law on March 11. While Penn State does not yet know its total allocation from this new round of aid, by law at least half of the funds are designated for students and will be disbursed in the form of emergency financial aid grants. A task group will be assisting University leadership in developing a plan to distribute this money to students once it is received from the U.S. Department of Education, and additional details about that grant process will be shared broadly as soon as possible.

Last Updated April 19, 2021