CARES Act, other funding sources help students complete spring semester

AMES, Iowa – More than 7,000 Iowa State University students applied for assistance from the Office of Financial Aid due to hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Iowa State received $10.8 million in federal CARES Act funding to help students pay for rent, food, child care or technology needs. Financial Aid Director Roberta Johnson says her office has already distributed $7.8 million. They have around 1,300 requests – out of the 7,354 received – to finish reviewing, which will likely exhaust the remaining funding. The application process closed on May 22.

Johnson says they’ve also been able to help students who did not meet the CARES Act criteria set by the federal government, thanks to $40,000 in donations to the #CycloneStrong campaign. The athletic department’s contribution to the university’s completion grant program provided another $134,000 in funding.

“We’ve really tried to leverage these dollars against other resources, such as the campus food pantry, to help students to the broadest extent possible,” Johnson said. “Many of our students lost a part-time job and that’s how they were paying the rent or buying groceries. This funding helps them cover their rent for a couple of months so they didn’t have to worry about being evicted.”

The average grant is around $1,400. Johnson says the need far exceeds the funding available, and, in some cases, students must decide between paying the internet bill and buying groceries. She and her team have tried to help as many students as possible successfully complete their spring semester.

Students are appreciative of the help. Johnson says one student who applied for and received funding from the CARES Act returned the grant after finding a summer job, so other students with greater need could benefit.

“We are touched by the selfless act of this student. It’s a wonderful example of our caring Iowa State community,” said President Wendy Wintersteen. “We know there are many students experiencing hardships during this crisis. I deeply appreciate the swift action of the Student Financial Aid team to direct this much-needed financial assistance to students in need and their continued efforts to support our students.”

It is unknown if additional stimulus funding for students will be appropriate in the fall. The U.S. Congress is currently weighing additional aid related to COVID-19, but whether funding for universities or student aid will be included is still to be determined. Students and their families are encouraged to contact Student Financial Aid with questions and for assistance planning for fall.