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CARES ACT – Update and FAQs

Dear Students:

Since the beginning of this global health crisis, one question has motivated our actions – that is, how do we best support our students during this unprecedented situation? With that in mind, the University took decisive action to prioritize the safety and well-being of our campus community, and looked for ways to help ease the financial burden the pandemic placed on our students. We quickly launched the President’s Relief Fund to provide emergency financial assistance to students experiencing pandemic-related financial hardships, distributing more than $267,000 to over 700 students, granting approximately 75 percent of the requests. We were among the first to announce refunds for unused housing, parking, and meal plan fees, and the first to get the funds back into the hands of our students. Throughout the spring semester, we also continued to fund all on-campus jobs, regardless of students’ ability to complete the necessary work. And, most recently, we distributed relief funds through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act to all qualifying students. Some questions have been raised about the distribution of these funds, so I’d like to share some additional detail about the University’s methodology.

The federal CARES Act is the $2 trillion federal relief bill, aimed at supporting citizens most affected by the pandemic. Monmouth University received nearly $4,935,299, half of which the University will use to offset expenses incurred by the pandemic, and half of which was distributed to students enrolled at the University this spring, with some held in reserve to continue to assist students this fall. The Department of Education provided institutions with significant discretion for the distribution of the CARES Act grants to students, allowing each institution to develop its own system and process for determining how to allocate these funds. We chose to direct these funds, as equitably as possible, to our students who demonstrated the most need. Our CARES Act grant team developed a methodology to determine which students had the greatest need through an unmet need calculation. Using this formula, all students with any unmet need, a total of 2,516 students, including 1,020 Pell grant recipients, received a grant in the initial distribution. After the first distribution, we received messages from students who felt that they had been left out – Pell grant recipients who were not picked up in the original calculation because they showed no unmet financial need. We amended our distribution criteria to include these additional students and consequently issued a second round of grants to 272 undergraduate Pell grant recipients who did not have unmet need, as well as four additional graduate students with a “Pell-like” financial profile who did not have unmet need.

As of today, $2.14 million of federal CARES Act money has been distributed to all Pell-eligible undergraduate students and all students who demonstrated financial need through the unmet need calculation, including graduate students with a “Pell-like” financial profile.

Below are some frequently asked questions related to the distribution process.

We will continue to be motivated by the mission to support students during this challenging time. If you have questions about these FAQs, please feel free to contact members of our CARES ACT Team by emailing caresact@monmouth.edu. Or, of course, you are always welcome to reach out to me directly at president@monmouth.edu. Thank you.  

Sincerely,

Dr. Patrick Leahy
President

What criteria did the university use to determine eligibility for CARES Act grants?

The Department of Education provided institutions with significant discretion for the distribution of the CARES Act grants to students, allowing each institution to develop its own system and process for determining how to allocate these funds. This might include distributing the funds to all students or only to students who demonstrate significant need, but its guidance did stipulate that the grants be directed to students with the most significant financial needs arising from the coronavirus pandemic.

The University initially awarded CARES Act grants to undergraduate and graduate students who were enrolled at the time of the campus closure, who had made satisfactory academic progress, and whose financial need had not already been met by some combination of federal, state, and institutional funding.  Unmet institutional need is defined as direct cost (tuition, fees, room, and board for resident students or tuition and fees for commuting students) minus Expected Family Contribution or EFC (derived from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA) minus all grant, scholarship, subsidized loan, federal work study, and graduate assistantship financial aid awards. On June 3, 2020, the university amended its CARES Act grant eligibility criteria to include all Pell grant recipients who had made satisfactory academic progress, regardless of unmet need.

The university awarded CARES Act grants to all eligible students demonstrating any unmet financial need, including graduate students with a “Pell-like” financial profile, and all undergraduate students with Pell grant eligibility. (Note: Graduate students are not eligible for Pell grants.)

The Department of Education based 75 percent of it calculation of the amount of CARES Act funding that Monmouth received on the number of enrolled Pell-eligible students, so why weren’t all Pell grant recipients included in the first distribution of funds?

The initial distribution of grants included 1,020 undergraduate students with Pell grant eligibility.  Several Pell-eligible students contacted the CARES Act Grant team to ask why they were not eligible for a CARES Act grant.  Moreover, a colleague contacted the team and asked us to look more carefully at why some high-need students received grants and others did not.  After looking again at the appeal emails as well as additional financial aid data, we determined that the 272 Pell-eligible students who did not have unmet need should also be awarded. The university amended its CARES Act grant criteria to include all Pell grant recipients and issued a second round of grants to 272 Pell grant recipients with no unmet need. The university also awarded CARES Act grants to four additional graduate students with a “Pell-like” financial profile who did not have unmet need.

How many CARES Act grants has the university awarded and how many of those grants went to Pell-eligible students?

As of June 8, 2020, the University has distributed 2,792 Emergency Financial Aid Grants to 2,179 undergraduate students (2,146 full-time and 33 part-time) and 613 graduate students (371 full-time and 242 part-time). Of the 2,792 grants awarded, 2,516 were awarded to students who had unmet need, including 1,020 Pell grant recipients. An additional 272 CARES Act grants were awarded to Pell grant recipients with no unmet need. All students with Pell grant eligibility, a total of 1,292 students, have received a CARES Act grant. Additionally, although graduate students are not eligible for Pell grants, we did award CARES Act grants to graduate students with a “Pell-like” financial profile.

When did Monmouth receive its CARES Act grant award and when were students notified of their eligibility?

The U.S. Department of Education notified the university on Saturday, May 23, that its CARES Act grant application had been approved for funding. The university notified the first round of students on Tuesday, May 26. A second round of students were notified of their eligibility on June 3, after the criteria were amended to include all Pell-eligible students, regardless of unmet need.

What pandemic-related expenses is the University incurring?

As of June 1, 2020, the university’s pandemic-related expenses total approximately $10 million, including the cost of refunding unused housing, meal plans, and parking; technology expenses associated with a rapid transition to online learning and instruction; increased costs for sanitation and disinfection on campus; the loss of the university’s NCAA revenue distribution; and lost revenue from programs, activities, and events that were cancelled.

How does Monmouth plan to use the $2.5 million institutional allocation of CARES Act funds that are not restricted for direct student aid?

The university’s CARES Act distribution will be used to offset the $10 million in pandemic-related expenses we have incurred thus far.

Whom may I contact with additional questions about the CARES Act funding?

You may reach members of the CARES Act Grant team at caresact@monmouth.edu.