Economic insecurity has always been an issue for both college students and policy-makers alike. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted this challenge for the whole country to see.
From April 20 to May 19, 2020, Temple Universities Hope Center for College, Community and Justice, conducted a survey looking at the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the needs of college students.
This survey, of which there were more than 38,000 respondents, found that over twenty-five percent of students at four-year institutions went hungry but didn’t eat because there wasn’t enough money for food. Twenty two percent of students at two-year institutions of higher education responded likewise in answer to this question.
Similarly, forty-two percent of students at four-year institutions reported losing their source of employment due to the pandemic.
With President Biden’s proposed stimulus bill projected to pass the House of Representatives this week, a large population of US citizens will likely receive checks for $1,400. While this will provide temporary relief for many, one vulnerable group was overlooked: College students.
Due to being claimed as a dependent by a parent or guardian, many college students will not be recipients of these $1,400 dollar checks. Zarek Porter, a Junior from Columbus, thinks college students deserve to be included in the group of those who receive $1,400 checks.
“I think stimulus checks need to go to everybody, especially college students because those are some of the people who need the most help” Porter said. “Most college students don’t have the funds to be paying for anything except for school.”
Recently allocated CARES Act funding is giving some students temporary relief despite not being included in the upcoming stimulus bill.
In the Spring Semester of 2021, Wittenberg University was granted $1,728,770 in Cares Act funding from the Department of Education. Half of that money was given with the purpose of dispersing direct payments to students. In early February, 1,175 part and full time Wittenberg Students received a share of this funding.
To be eligible to receive part of this funding, a student must be eligible for Title IX financial aid as determined by the FAFSA. Highest priority was given to full-time, Pell Grant eligible students, however all students eligible for financial aid were given some amount of money.
For Pell Eligible recipients, those enrolled full-time were given $1095, and those enrolled part-time were given $450. For non-pell eligible recipients, those enrolled full-time were given $595, and part-time students were given $250. Graduate students were allocated $250 regardless of enrollment status.
For Emma Menjivar, a Junior from Moreno Valley, California, receiving money from the Cares Act was a great stress reliever.
“[This will be] my grocery money for the next month or two and it helps me take care of small bills that I have,” Menjivar said. “It’s nice to not have to worry about those small things and use the money from my jobs on campus for other things I am in need of.”
This funding will allow Menjivar to focus on the real reason she came to Wittenberg: To get an education and play the sport that she loves.
Many students are hoping that COVID-19 will serve as the impetus for greater discussion surrounding the plethora of unmet needs of college students.
While CARES Act funding will provide interim solace for many, conversations on long-term considerations for how to protect college students should be front and center in dialogues on campuses nationwide.