U.S. Department of Education to give $92 Million to UCSD

Under the American Rescue Plan (ARP) act for postsecondary education, the United States Department of Education will provide UC San Diego with a total of approximately $92 million. $46 million of the funding is required to go towards emergency funding delegated for direct student aid as part of the new formula introduced by the ARP’s Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund. 

According to the press release from the U.S. Department of Education on May 11, the emergency funds aim to provide financial aid for students so that learning continues during the pandemic. 

“These funds are critical to ensuring that all of our nation’s students — particularly those disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic — have the opportunity to enroll, continue their education, graduate, and pursue their careers,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said. “With this action, thousands of institutions will be able to provide direct relief to students who need it most, so we can make sure that we not only recover from the pandemic, but also build back even stronger than before.”

UCSD will receive the third largest investment from the federal agency out of all in the UC system, following closely behind UC Irvine and UCLA. 

The U.S. Department of Education has also released guidelines for how universities and colleges can utilize the emergency financial grants for three primary uses of the emergency grants: to support students with exceptional needs, the retention and reengagement of students, and to prevent and mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The latter includes efforts to vaccinate students and campus communities.

According to the May 11 press release, the ARP requires institutions to prioritize students who qualify for the Federal Pell Grant, or undergraduates with extraordinary financial circumstances. However, universities can also consider other factors like loss of employment, reduced income, and food and housing insecurity when assessing a student’s needs for emergency funding. 

The emergency financial grants can also be used for providing academic and mental health support for students, including the cancellation of student debt accrued during the pandemic. This helps students in re-enrolling and continuing their postsecondary education.

Emergency funds can be put towards efforts to prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19 as well; such as UCSD’s Return to Learn program, which offers UCSD students and employees free COVID-19 testing and screening and free COVID-19 vaccinations. UCSD’s wastewater monitoring program that detects virus transmission and shedding can also be funded by the emergency grants.  

Markus Clipper, a senior at UCSD in Earl Warren College, double majoring in visual arts media and psychology, noted the importance of providing direct aid for students under extraordinary financial distress due to the pandemic.

“A lot of families have been hit hard during this [pandemic] so it’s good to be able to help them survive during this time,” Clipper said. “It could be like, I need a helper with my family, I need to get a job, I need to go back home because my parents are struggling. Helping with financial aid will help students worry less about their financial situation, and then they are able to worry about school.”

Additionally, under the proposed 2021–22 state budget by Governor Gavin Newsom, the UC system will also receive over $807 million from the state, the largest state investment in its history. 

In a press statement by the UC Office of the President, Board of Regents Chair John A. Pérez and President Michael V. Drake said that the proposed investment reflects an earlier agreement to fully restore more than $300 million that was previously part of 2020–21 state budget reductions. 

“The allocation recognizes the University’s role as a key driver of California’s economic future,” the statement said. “The governor’s proposed investment of more than $300 million in one-time funding would support critical upgrades and the expansion and development of energy efficiency projects across our campuses. These slated investments in deferred maintenance and capital projects will improve student learning and maintain UC’s role as a leading system of higher education worldwide.”

Overall, California’s colleges and universities are expected to receive over $5 billion in government funding as a result of the legislation. More information about other aspects of the American Rescue Plan can be found here.

Photo courtesy of Thought Catalog from Unsplash

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