CORONAVIRUS

Thousands of Iowa university students benefited from federal coronavirus aid

Iowa State still has $1.6 million to distribute

The Old Capitol Building is seen in April 2014 on the campus of the University of Iowa in Iowa City. (The Gazette)
The Old Capitol Building is seen in April 2014 on the campus of the University of Iowa in Iowa City. (The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — More than 13,700 students across Iowa’s public universities who found themselves facing financial hardship this summer due to COVID-19 have received help via their school’s distribution of federal CARES Act funding.

New reports show the University of Iowa and the University of Northern Iowa have distributed all their portions of Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funding required to go toward students. Iowa State University on Friday still had $1.6 million of its $10.8 million to distribute to COVID-19-affected students needing help paying for things like food, class materials, technology, health care and child care.

The U.S. Department of Education in April released its final distribution of higher-education-specific CARES funding, mandating institutions use half of anything they get to help students directly.

The University of Iowa got a total $16.2 million, meaning it had to make $8.1 million available to students; ISU received a total $21.7 million, leaving $10.8 million for students; and UNI got $7.6 million, requiring $3.8 million go to students.

Iowa State to date has distributed $9.2 million to 6,174 students; UI has distributed all $8.1 million to 4,724 students; and UNI has allocated all $3.8 million to 2,841 students.

An estimated 52,430 students across the three campuses combined were eligible — via aid and need requirements — to receive the emergency funding. The campuses aren’t required to report the number of applicants, but Iowa State in May reported 7,354 students had requested aid for hardship caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Although not every applicant received federal aid, the campuses through separate fundraising efforts amassed additional emergency funding to help some of those who applied but didn’t qualify under the federal guidelines.

The average CARES Act grant at Iowa State was about $1,400, as of late May. UI this past week reported its average award at $1,712.

Of UI recipients who received federal funding, 85 percent are undergraduates, 10 percent are professional and 5 percent are graduate students. One-third of the recipients are first-generation students, meaning they’re the first in their families to go to college. And one-third of the undergraduate recipients also are Pell grant recipients.

In reporting their student aid distribution figures to the federal government, the universities had to say how they determined who would get money and how much.

UI officials reported making decisions via a review of the students’ applications, enrollment, Pell grant eligibility and use of direct loans.

At Iowa State — in hopes of distributing funds quickly — officials awarded eligible students who asked for $2,000 or less the full amount of their request. Those who asked for more got $2,000 initially, and their application then was diverted to a “further review” category for financial aid staff evaluation.

The highest possible ISU award was $3,000.

UNI also reported upping initial awards — after a first round of distribution.

“In late June 2020, the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships evaluated the remaining CARES funding and implemented a plan to award the remainder of the CARES funds to students that had previously applied by the initial CARES application deadline, had the greatest financial need, and did not receive the full amount of their original request,” according to a UNI report.

Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

Support our coverage

Our most important Coronavirus coverage is free to the public.

If you believe local news is essential, especially during this crisis, please donate. Your contribution will support news resources to cover the impact of the pandemic on our local communities.

All donations are tax-deductible.

Support our coverage

Our most important Coronavirus coverage is free to the public.

If you believe local news is essential, especially during this crisis, please donate. Your contribution will support news resources to cover the impact of the pandemic on our local communities.

All donations are tax-deductible.