Under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, nearly $14 billion was allocated to higher education institutions across the United States, including more than $17 million for Utah State University.
“We understand and appreciate that spring semester 2020 was unlike any other semester that our students have experienced here at Utah State," said Robert Wagner, the vice president of Academic and Instructional Services at Utah State University. "We know that there are a number of needs and challenges that they faced because of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The U.S. Department of Education requires at least 50% of CARES Act funding for higher learning institutions go directly to students. Of the $17,428,745 in federal funding USU is receiving, more than $8.7 million will go to students.
About 40% of the students at USU are eligible for CARES Act funding, and those who are not eligible can still apply for the USU COVID-19 Student Emergency Hardship Resources Fund, according to USU’s vice president of Student Affairs, James Morales.
But Travis Forsyth, a junior at USU, said it may not be enough.
“And so, for everybody else, they're just out of luck,” Forsyth said.
“I think that everybody that receives money from the CARES Act is going to be grateful for that money. But I think that the refund is a separate matter," he said. "It's not only about receiving money for students that are struggling. It's about students — every student has paid student fees up front for services that were not able not able to be provided. USU is keeping money that they charge for services they can't provide.”
The petition has more than 1,000 signatures, but Forsyth says when he met with Morales, he was told based on USU policy, a refund in fees is not possible.
About $5 million in grants of the $8.7 million going to students will be made available this week based on need, such as the number of credits enrolled in for the Spring 2020 semester, FAFSA standing and whether classes were online or on-campus. Students can see if they are elligible here.