The Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) offered financial relief to families, states and organizations. Though USD students can’t receive help from the act unless they qualified in the past, the federal government may soon reevaluate future financial aid.
Scott Pohlson, Vice President of Enrollment, Marketing and University Relations, said USD used $1,817,383 of the $3,634,766 they received to help almost 2000 students financially. These students could receive from $250 to $1500.
“We’ve spent all of the student funds because the federal CARES Act told us that they wanted (the student portion of) those funds to be in student’s pockets as fast as possible,” Pohlson said. “We would not have anything this fall as it stands today.“
If the pandemic worsens, Pohlson said more schools may turn to remote learning for the remainder of the semester, forcing the government to reevaluate financial aid.
“If there were to be a situation like what happened in the spring where on-campus face–to–face could not exist for the majority of higher education in the United States, I think there is an opportunity that the federal government would step in again,” Pohlson said.
Pohlson said that higher education funding is largely based on the cost for students to attend and receive a degree. Schools need and use the funding to continue delivering a quality educational environment. With the looming threat of remote learning, schools are trying their hardest to stay on campus.
“If we go that direction, financially that’s a major hit. Our revenue source is obviously the money that students pay USD and that’s it,” Pohlson said. “We have some very generous donors, but they can’t make up for the revenue stream of what our students pay in tuition, fees, and room and board.”
One of the biggest concerns with finances this year is refunds for if the school goes fully online, Pohlson said. He said it would be difficult for higher education institutions, including USD, to go online for a significant amount of time.
“We’d have to look at what things we’d be refunding, that would be in partnership with the Board of Regents, and what we’re delivering and not delivering,” Pohlson said. “It would be some kind of pro-rated refund based on the expenses that students have.”
Pohlson said students have been provided with an immense amount of information to keep themselves safe and understand that the future is in their hands.
“We were fortunate to be in a situation where our size as an institution allows for us to try face to face and then it really does rest upon the ability of our students, staff and faculty to really adhere to CDC guidelines,” Pohlson said.
Pohlson said although campus life looks different for students this year, their ability to receive a quality education is still the top priority for faculty at USD.