As part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the United States Secretary of Education will allocate funding to Wharton County Junior College (WCJC) to provide Emergency Relief funds directly to students who have been financially impacted by the change in college operations resulting from preventative or precautionary measures related to the Coronavirus outbreak.
Provisions within the WCJC CARES Emergency Relief Aid (WCJC CARES) Plan are meant to prioritize relief aid for those students who demonstrate the greatest immediate need, while also maximizing the number of students who may directly benefit from the Emergency Relief aid. Students registered with WCJC who are qualified to apply for WCJC CARES Emergency Relief Aid will be contacted and provided an application to apply for the aid. Questions may be directed to email@example.com.
I. Student Eligibility
In order to be eligible for WCJC CARES Emergency Relief Aid, a student must:
- Be enrolled in a credit program at WCJC during the semester in which the funds are requested.
- Exhibit financial need as delineated within the WCJC CARES Emergency Relief Aid Application.
- Be registered for a minimum of three (3) semester credit hours (SCH) for a summer term and six (6) SCH for fall or spring terms.
- Not have been enrolled exclusively in online courses on March 13, 2020.
- Submitted a FAFSA for the term in which the funds are requested.
- Be eligible to participate in programs under Section 484 in Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, the criteria of which include (but are not limited to):
- U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen;
- Valid Social Security Number;
- Registration with Selective Service (if the student is a male); and
- High school diploma, GED, or completion of home school.
- Be in good academic standing with the college or making good progress.
- Be in good disciplinary standing with the college.
II. Eligible Expenses
WCJC CARES Emergency Relief Aid funds are eligible for student expenses related the disruption of campus operations due to the Coronavirus outbreak. Eligible expenses include:
- Course materials
- Housing and food
- Health care
III. Award Progress as of July 10, 2020
Wharton County Junior College signed and returned the Certification and Agreement to the U.S. Department of Education on April 14, 2020, verifying that a minimum of $1,530,303 provided through the CARES Act would be disbursed directly to students in the form of Emergency Financial Aid Grants.
On April 24, 2020, the by the U.S. Department of Education made available the total amount of direct-to-student funds ($1,530,303) for WCJC to draw down upon for disbursement to students.
A total of 1,863 WCJC students were verified as eligible to participate in Spring 2020 under Section 484 in Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965. A total of 502 WCJC students were verified as eligible to participate in Summer 2020 under Section 484 in Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965.
To date, a total of $1,099,000 has been distributed directly to 1,099 students under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act.
IV. Grant Calculation Determination
The emergency financial aid grant amount of $1,000 per student for the initial Spring 2020 cohort was determined based on several key factors. Firstly, the WCJC CARES Oversight Committee sought to identify an amount that would provide significant financial help to those students who were impacted. Median rent in Wharton County is reported to be $564 per month, with unemployment close to 6% prior to the outbreak. An award amount of greater than $500 was deemed necessary to provide significant help to struggling students.
In addition, the Oversight Committee referenced a 2017 special report from the Center for Community College Engagement in which it was reported that 49% of students reported that they had run out of money at least once during the previous 12 months, thereby relying on outside sources, including family, friends, loans, and charity. Moreover, 18% of students reported that they would not be able to come up with any additional money “if an unexpected need arose within the next month” (CCCSE, 2017, p. 12). The majority of respondents were confident that they would be able to come up with between $500 and $1000 if they had to, with fewer than 1 in 4 being able to accumulate more than $1,000. The committee noted that these survey results were gathered during a time when the economy was strong and unemployment rates were low; financial need is likely to be significantly greater among students today.
Finally, with the eligible cohort totaling approximately 1,900 students, an award total of $1,000 per student would potentially result in a gross disbursement of $1,900,000. Due to the immediacy of need faced by students and the dedication of WCJC to supporting students’ ability to complete, the determination was made to set the award amount at $1,000 per students.
V. Direction to Students
All communication for the WCJC CARES Emergency Relief Aid program is managed through a central email address, WCJCCares@wcjc.edu. Eligible students were notified via email regarding the availability of emergency aid grants. In addition, students were sent a text message notification indicating that they were eligible for an award and should check their WCJC email for guidelines.
 Center for Community College Student Engagement. (2017). Making ends meet: The role of community colleges in student financial health. Austin, TX: The University of Texas at Austin, College of Education, Department of Educational Administration, Program in Higher Education Leadership.