ESU Distributed Over $7 Million in Emergency Funds to Students

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Posted by: Elizabeth Richardson on October 25, 2021, No Comments

East Stroudsburg University distributed $7.5 million in emergency funds to students as part of the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund III (HEERF III). These funds were part of the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Public Law 117-2, signed into law on March 11, 2021, providing $39.6 billion in support to institutions of higher education to serve students and ensure learning continues throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. This was ESU’s third round of funding.

“We are trying to help students with emergencies and pandemic-related costs such as WIFI, laptops or housing,” said Kary Tejeda, ESU director of financial aid. “The funds are for educational expenses, “Karen Lucas, vice president of enrollment management, said of the awards. The Department of Education has provided funds previously. Under the Trump administration these funds were known as the CARES Act and CRRSSA funds. Under the American Rescue Plan, the funds are offered to any student to use for education-related expenses. “How do we help students continue their education? How do students maintain wi-fi, or buy a new computer or camera? Some of our students shared they had to buy a desk—they no longer had access to libraries or computer labs and were doing their schoolwork at home. They had the expense of setting up a workspace at home or getting the technology they needed. These funds were available in order for students to achieve that,” she said. “We understood students were laid off—many work in service jobs or the hospitality industry. These funds helped them cover their rent.”

Lucas said, “Kary [Tejeda] developed a great method for identifying students with the most need. Students were awarded the maximum of $3,500, on down to a few hundred dollars. Even students who did not complete the FAFSA and did not need aid— may be eligible for something.” Tejeda said, “We did set some money aside for an emergency fund for students.” A fourth round of funding is not expected, but that is at the discretion of the federal government. Students who may still need aid in the spring can reapply for the emergency funds.

Tejeda said, “These are funds students can use to get through the pandemic. In our office, we are always willing and looking for ways to help our student population. This is an amazing tool we can use to help students in need.” Lucas said, “We are trying to help our students as much as possible. For example, for the students graduating in the spring, if they had a balance, we used those funds to help pay down their balance so the student had less of a burden as they started their next chapter.”

ESU’s Chief Financial Officer, Donna Bulzoni noted, “it’s important for students to know that these are not loans, they are tax-free student aid grants. There is no requirement to pay this money back. That is a huge benefit to students.”

The unexpected monies gave many students a much-appreciated financial boost during an uncertain time. Many are juggling work, classes, and family responsibilities. Others faced reduced work hours, layoffs, or job loss throughout the last 18 months and were grateful for the additional financial assistance. Kayla Lindsay, a sophomore exercise science major and mother of two young children from Saylorsburg, Pa., was just one student who benefited from the funds. She received an automated email from ESU announcing the funding availability, but unlike previous funding cycles, she did not have to go through an application process. “I’m a full-time student. I haven’t been working since the pandemic started. My kids go to day care so I can go to school, and day care is not cheap. The money helped with bills and to pay for day care,” she said, adding, “I think this program is very beneficial. I definitely appreciate the help. I was surprised when I received the email notification. This program is so important to help people through tough times.”