Giving away millions, OCCC helps students in need

Toward the end of February, certain qualifying OCCC students received an email regarding a monetary grant due to additional federal funding that college received.

The grant was directed to be used for any component of the student’s cost of attendance or for emergency costs that arise due to COVID-19.

The grants given out, which were in the amount of $750 dollars apiece, began to be released at the beginning of March. These grants were given out to 4,068 students.

Cynthia D. Gary, OCCC chief financial officer, said that these grants came from funding provided by the Institutional Portion of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act of 2020 and the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund- Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021.

The two Acts totaled to $3,051,000 — with the C.A.R.E.S Act providing $660,000 and the CRRSAA providing $2,391,000, according to information provided by Gary.

This comes after the initial C.A.R.E.S Act grant in 2020 that totaled $3,130,864 and went out to 2,181 students that applied out of the 5,071 students that were eligible to apply.

The college was given CRRSAA funding this year because of being awarded HEERF funding from the C.A.R.E.S Act in 2020, Gary said.

The grants weren’t made available to all OCCC students because of government requirements.

“The college was required to prioritize grants to students with exceptional need, such as students who receive Pell Grants,” she said.

“The initial disbursement was made to Spring 2021 Pell Recipients and student[s] with a low Expected Family Contribution (EFC) as recognized by Financial Aid,” Gary said.

“OCCC will be offering an additional funding opportunity to those who qualify, in the near future,” Gary said.

Additional grants that use the CRRSAA funds would be for students not included in the first round of 4,068 students.

The college is making every effort to provide these additional opportunities while following any and all guidance from the Department of Education, she said.

“All previous CARES Act student aid grant requirements such as Title IV eligibility appear to remain in place, and OCCC will await any further guidance from the Department of Education,” Gary said.

The grants would not be used as payments on student accounts without their request and consent, Gary said. 

Instead, the funds would be distributed through a student’s designated refund preference.

It is unclear how much money might be allotted with future grants. It is also not confirmed whether future grants will be automatic distributions like the 2021 grant or if it will be application based like the 2020 grant.