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Working to meet student need

Carolina is preparing to meet an increase in student financial need this coming academic year due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The Bell Tower on Carolina's campus.
View of the Morehead-Patterson Bell Tower on June 5, 2019, on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill)

University officials estimate undergraduate student financial need for 2020-2021 will increase significantly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. To identify and meet these additional needs, the Office of Scholarships and Student Aid is identifying potential funding sources and helping undergraduate, graduate and professional students explain their circumstances and request additional aid.

“We understand that the financial need of students at all levels — undergraduate, graduate and professional — has deepened dramatically as a result of COVID-19,” Provost Robert A. Blouin said. “The University is working toward meeting this need transparently and as fully and equitably as possible.”

Since the pandemic began, the University has fulfilled more than 2,000 student requests, disbursing more than $2 million in CARES Act funds, private gifts to the Carolina Student Impact Fund and other UNC-Chapel Hill funds to help students cover financial needs brought on by the pandemic, according to Rachelle Feldman, associate provost and director of Office of Scholarships and Student Aid.

“Every penny of CARES Act funding for students will be distributed to students — undergraduate, graduate and professional — to meet additional need that has been created by COVID-19,” Feldman said. “The University is also committing additional resources to meet the needs of students, which is a challenge because the University itself is facing extraordinary financial challenges as a result of COVID-19.”

About half of the funds disbursed are federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funds. CARES Act grants are awarded directly to students for qualifying expenses such as food, housing, technology, childcare, medical needs and other expenses resulting from the disruption to campus. Grant amounts vary by student and are unique to each student’s circumstances. To comply with federal requirements, CARES Act funds are targeted to students who can demonstrate need through the FAFSA, using guidelines established by the United States Department of Education.

However, much of the need students have demonstrated is a result of loss of employment or income of one or both parents, said Vice Provost for Enrollment and Undergraduate Admissions Stephen Farmer.  Because the federal government specifically prohibits the University from using CARES Act funding to replace such losses, the University has met these needs by identifying and using other funding sources.

“While not every student with financial need will necessarily receive a CARES Act grant, our goal is to ensure there are sufficient university funds to meet the demonstrated financial needs of all students during this pandemic,” Farmer said.

The government also prohibits using CARES Act funding to meet additional COVID-19-related needs of students who were not enrolled in college last spring, or to help international students who need emergency assistance. In these cases the University has met these needs with other funds, Farmer said. Carolina received $8.6 million in CARES Act funding for emergency grants to students in late April.

For additional information about financial support for COVID-19 pandemic-related hardships, visit the Office of Scholarships and Student Aid.