TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Tyler Junior College has disbursed emergency federal grants to 2,443 TJC students whose lives and educations were disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak.
The school’s director of financial aid said they wanted to distribute the funding to even more students, but they’re waiting for guidance from the Department of Education.
“When the application for the funds came out, there were instructions about how to distribute that, and most schools felt we were able to distribute to all students,” said Devon Wiggins, the director of financial aid and enrollment support services at TJC. “Just before we had set our policy for awarding to students, and we were going to award to all disrupted students, the Department of Education came out with further guidelines that restricted the eligibility of students.”
Wiggins said many organizations and schools were upset with the new guidelines.
“They said it had to be Title IV-eligible students, meaning they would’ve had to complete the FAFSA and been eligible according to the general eligibility requirements for Title IV financial aid,” Wiggins said.
To be eligible for Title IV financial aid, students must be a citizen, must be meeting satisfactory academic progress, must be enrolled in an eligible academic program, and must not be in default on any loans.
While they were waiting on more guidance from the Department of Education, Wiggins said the school decided they would automatically distribute funds to disrupted students who fell into three categories.
“Our displaced dorm students, students who are forced to receive an incomplete grade in the spring semester because something in their course could not be done in virtual classrooms,” Wiggins said. “And the third category was any and all students that were in all face-to-face courses and were moved to all online courses.”
“For our dorm students we allocated relocation expense money - 500 dollars,” Wiggins said. “For the students moving from face-to-face courses to online courses, we allocated the expense of a computer and internet for a few months. The incomplete-grade students, we calculated an amount that would cover housing, food, and transportation for an extra month, because we predicted their school year to be about a month longer than they expected.”
Matthew Mills is a senior automotive technology student at TJC, and he said he received $750.
“I actually used it to pay for my last four-week class of my degree,” Mills said. “I probably wouldn’t have been able to finish my degree out if it weren’t for that money, I received.”
Mills said he encourages all other students to apply for the funding.
“It’s always good to have extra money to further your education,” Mills said. “I’m all about furthering my education. When I finish this associate’s degree, I’m planning on going back for an engineering degree. So, all I can say is if it helps for school, take it.”
Emily Grimes is a sophomore at TJC, in the LVN nursing program. She said the money has helped her immensely with bills since her hours at work were cut down significantly due to COVID-19.
“For me, it helps with everyday finances that I have to pay for - all my bills, school funds, books, tuition, and fees, it covers pretty much everything,” Grimes said. “I am dead set on using it for school funds because your girl doesn’t want to be in debt.”
Grimes said she is also allocating some of the funds to go towards gas because she has to drive 15 to 20 minutes away from her home every day to get Wi-Fi to submit her coursework.
Wiggins is encouraging students who have been disrupted by the campus change to apply for funding, as they are creating more awards and hoping to get money to as many effected students as they can. Students who apply just need to have filled out their FAFSA.
“There are students, I’m sure, out there that had expenses related to the change in campus operations in the spring,” said Wiggins. “Those students do need to complete the TJC Now application, so we can consider them for the remaining portion of our grant funding, so we can help those students out; we know they were effected.”
More information about this story from Tyler Junior College:
To date, TJC has distributed $2,083,500 in immediate grants from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. More funding could be awarded following new federal guidelines to be released in the near future.
When the federal government released the application for the CARES Act grant funding in mid-April, TJC formed a task force to develop policies and procedures to proactively award the grants to students who were most acutely impacted by the health crisis. Students eligible for Title IV aid who experienced extra expenses related to the campus disruption were considered for the grants.
“We knew we needed to get the funds to affected students quickly to help alleviate some financial worries so they could concentrate on completing their college coursework,” said Devon Wiggins, TJC director of financial aid and chair of the TJC CARES Act grant task force.
“This money was a huge benefit for me financially,” said Kye Harris, TJC sophomore professional tennis management major from Overland Park, Kansas. “It helped me be able to provide food and groceries since I could not live on campus anymore due to online schooling.”
Emily Grimes, a sophomore nursing major from Fruitvale, said, “I work a part-time job and really had to save up my money to pay the bills and school funds that need to be taken care of. I drove more than 15 minutes from my house just to have access to Wi-Fi every day to complete all of my schoolwork. So, gas money is tight as well as all my finances. So, this extra money from the TJC CARES Act grant will help me so much.”
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