What is the CARES Act?
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act, became law in March 2020. One component of the CARES Act, the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, provided funding to institutions of higher education, with half of the funding explicitly directed to provide financial aid grants to students whose lives were disrupted by the pandemic, and the other half to help institution pay for significant changes in the delivery of instruction that resulted from the pandemic. The CARES Act assigned to institutions of higher education the responsibility of determining how the grants would be distributed to students and how the amount of each grant would be calculated, within limits established by the act and by the United States Department of Education.
How much funding for students did the University receive through the CARES Act?
How much of this CARES Act funding will be awarded to students?
How much of this CARES Act funding was awarded to students in spring and summer 2020?
$1,170,917 was awarded to meet the pandemic-related needs of students last spring and this summer. In addition to this CARES Act funding, the University awarded $1 million in emergency grants through the Student Impact Fund.
Will the CARES Act funding be enough to meet the additional demonstrated need that has been created by the COVID-19 pandemic?
No. We currently estimate that the pandemic will create an additional $16 million in financial need among undergraduate, graduate and professional students during the 2020-2021 academic year, more than double the $7.5 million in CARES Act funding that remains.
Will any of this CARES Act funding be used to reimburse the University for its own expenses?
No. The University has not used, and will not use, any of the CARES Act funding for students to reimburse itself. The student portion of the CARES Act funding has been used and will be used exclusively to provide grants to meet the additional need that students will demonstrate because of the pandemic.
Will other CARES Act funding be awarded to students?
Yes. Beyond the remaining $7.5 million in CARES Act funding for students, the University estimates that it will need to identify an additional $8.5 million in funding to meet the additional need that students will demonstrate because of the pandemic. The University has committed $2.5 million of its institutional CARES Act funding for this purpose.
Does the federal government limit how the University may use CARES Act funding?
Yes. The government requires that CARES Act funding only be used for students who were enrolled in post-secondary education last spring, the period when campus operations were interrupted because of COVID-19 and only for needs related to the pandemic. Further, universities may only use CARES Act funds for students who are eligible for federal financial aid under all the rules and regulations associated with Title IV of the Higher Education Act. These rules include establishing eligibility through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), maintaining satisfactory academic progress and remaining currently enrolled as a matriculated student. The government prohibits CARES Act funding from being used to meet some kinds of student need — for example, need arising from job or income loss — even when this need results directly from the pandemic.
How will CARES Act funding be awarded for the 2020-2021 academic year?
The University will use CARES Act funding to meet a portion of the additional financial need that the pandemic has created. Using the funds in this way will help students persist in their studies and graduate on time; it will also help the University meet the greater demonstrated need of the student body as a whole.
To ensure that students receive their CARES Act grants by the start of the fall 2020 semester, the Office of Scholarships and Student Aid is awarding funds, without an additional application, to every undergraduate student who qualifies for Pell, Covenant Scholarship or University grants of at least $1,000, with each such student receiving an increase in total grant funding of $1,000 for the academic year. Through individual appeals, the office is also awarding CARES Act funds to graduate and professional students, as well as other undergraduate students who demonstrate extraordinary need. As always, the office is also considering requests for need-based aid from students who previously did not qualify but whose financial circumstances have changed.
Why is the University awarding CARES Act funding in these ways?
The University’s overarching goals are to continue to meet the full demonstrated need of every undergraduate student who qualifies for aid, to help all students persist in their studies and graduate on time and to administer limited resources as transparently and as equitably as possible. The University believes that the best way to achieve these goals is to quickly and systematically increase grant support for undergraduate students who qualify for Pell, Covenant Scholarship or University grants of at least $1,000, while reserving funds for graduate, professional and other undergraduate students whose financial circumstances have deteriorated because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
How will CARES Act grants appear in undergraduate financial-aid packages?
Because of extraordinary circumstances—including the CARES Act and late changes in 2020-2021 tuition and fees—the University must revise the preliminary aid packages that it previously shared with students. Because of the CARES Act, undergraduate students who previously qualified for Pell, Covenant Scholarship or University grants for 2020-2021 will see an increase in total grant funding of $1,000 for the academic year compared to their preliminary packages. The specific amount of the CARES Act grant may exceed $1,000 and will vary depending on demonstrated need. CARES Act funds will be distributed in the fall 2020 semester through the student account and refund automatically to each student. These funds will not apply to any outstanding charges on the student account.
Why isn’t the University distributing an equal share of CARES Act funding to every student?
If the University distributed its $8,647,589 in CARES Act funding for students equally among all students who met the minimum eligibility requirements established by the United States Department of Education, each eligible student would have received a grant of $384. More than half of the eligible students would have no demonstrated financial need, even when the effects of the pandemic were accounted for. Rather than use the funds in this way, the University is directing them to help students at all levels whose financial needs have increased because of the pandemic, so that these students can persist in their studies and graduate on time. Although this approach will result in far fewer students receiving CARES Act grants, the University believes that it is the fairest, most equitable and most effective way to use these funds.
Are there other funds available for emergency grants or financial needs related to COVID -19?
Yes. Students may use the Needs Analysis Review Form or contact the Office of Scholarships and Student Aid to request reconsideration of their needs due to loss of income, extraordinary expenses or other items related to their costs for 2020-21. In addition, emergency grant funding is available through the Dean of Students’ Student Emergency Fund. The Dean of Students will work with the Office of Scholarships and Student Aid to use remaining Student Impact Fund and other resources available to help meet the financial needs of students.
How does the University report its use of CARES Act funding to the federal government?
The University’s required report to the federal government on its use of CARES Act funding appears below and is regularly updated:
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill institution signed and returned to the Department the Certification and Agreement for Higher Education Emergency Relief Funding and the assurance that the institution has used, or intends to use, no less than 50% of the funds received under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act to provide Emergency Financial Aid Grants to students.
The institution has/will receive $8,647,589.
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, is 22,500.
As of September 14, the University has awarded $8,647,589 of these funds and $2,313,000 of the institutional portion of its CARES funds, a total of $10,960,589 to 5,886 students.