Financial aid team helps students facing COVID costs


As part of the University of Michigan’s ongoing efforts to support students during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Office of Financial Aid announced it is again accepting student applications for emergency financial assistance.

The latest round of funding allows students with ongoing financial concerns to access federal money to help cover costs related to housing, food, books and supplies, technology, health care, childcare and other needs.

“The pandemic is not over, and for thousands of students on our campus, the ongoing costs associated with COVID-19 are a significant burden,” said Tammie Durham, assistant vice provost for enrollment management and executive director of financial aid. “With our simple application process now in place, the university can help ease that burden for our students and their families.”

Durham began overseeing the university’s undergraduate financial aid processes in November 2019, just months before the pandemic began. Since then, she and her team have coordinated a number of emergency funding programs in addition to the normal responsibilities of administering and awarding scholarships and need-based aid.

When Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act in March 2020, it established the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund and provided U-M with $25.2 million. Half of that funding, or $12.6 million, was earmarked for emergency grants for students.

After creating a simple application asking students to explain how the COVID-19 disruption to campus operations impacted their financial situation, the financial aid office approved grants for 9,101 students until the funds were exhausted.

Still seeing a need, the financial aid office committed about $2.9 million of its central budget to additional block grants for about 530 students. The Office of University Development contributed, too, providing about $200,000 to fund about 20 more students with grants.

Many schools, colleges and other university units also provided funding through their own grant distribution processes. The end result was nearly $5.2 million in additional institutional spending on top of the federal funds.

The Office of Financial Aid also partnered with the Rackham Graduate School to provide funds from university donors to international students who were not eligible for federal funds. The $700 awards for housing and food benefitted more than 500 students.

A second round of federal COVID-19 relief approved in December 2020 provided U-M with an additional $12.6 million in student emergency grants. The “HEERF II” funding allowed the university to provide every undergraduate who enrolled in the spring or summer semester a one-time $1,000 relief grant.

“We knew that many of our undergraduate students were attending in the spring or summer to make up for lost time due to pandemic-related disruptions, and many were continuing to experience financial difficulties,” Durham said.

Other student groups that received the funding included undergraduate students that received Pell grants during the 2020-21 academic year, graduate students that borrowed large amounts of federal direct loans and students that had documented significant losses of financial resources with the Office of Financial Aid as a result of the pandemic.

The emergency funding now available through the current student application — “HEERF III” — comes from the American Rescue Plan, the same stimulus bill approved in March that included $1,400 direct payments to individuals and extended expanded federal unemployment benefits through Labor Day.

The financial aid office will soon begin distributing the $32.4 million provided to the university for emergency student grants.

“It has been a difficult year and a half for our students and their families,” Durham said. “We’re proud to facilitate this process and support them where we can.”


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