George Fox will get some help dealing with effects of pandemic
Like society at large, American college students have been hard-hit by the pandemic. Schedules have been disrupted, grades adversely affected and graduations delayed. The Biden administration, as part of its American Rescue Plan Act, has stepped in to aid students and the schools they attend with another element of education that has been beset by the calamity of COVID-19: money.
Oregon received $354 million of the $36 billion dedicated to education in the $1.9 trillion ARPA, according to U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici. Within the state the money will be distributed to 29 public and private schools across the state, including Yamhill County's two universities –- George Fox and Linfield –- as well as the two community colleges that operate in the county, Portland Community and Chemeketa.
George Fox University will receive $6.94 million in ARPA funds, while Linfield is expected to net $3.99 million.
Rob Felton, GFU's director of executive communication, said the university didn't apply for the money. Rather, it was based on pre-pandemic enrollment of in-person students, with additional funds for schools with higher percentages of lower-income Pell Grant recipients.
More than half of the funds, approximately $3.5 million, will go the students hardest hit by the pandemic.
"The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act … requires that institutions prioritize students with exceptional need, such as students who receive Pell Grants or are undergraduates with extraordinary financial circumstances, in awarding emergency financial aid grants to students," he added in an email.
The grants may be used by students "for any component of their cost of attendance or for emergency costs that arise due to coronavirus, such as tuition, food, housing, health care (including mental health care) or child care," Felton said.
The amount of aid students will receive has not yet been finalized, but Felton said it will likely range between $500 and $1,600 per round and be distributed via three rounds of funding.
"We have 4,100 students enrolled in different programs, but we have been asked to prioritize lower-income undergraduate students. Some students will get the higher amounts and some will not be eligible," he added.
GFU administrators have begun receiving training from the federal government on rules for allocation prior to using the ARPA funds, he added.
School gets help, too
In addition to grants made directly to students, the school itself will receive in excess of $3.46 million to defray the expenses it incurred during the pandemic.
"According to the legislation, this may include lost revenue, reimbursement for expenses already incurred, technology costs associated with a transition to distance education, faculty and staff training and payroll," Felton said.
GFU experienced a 7% drop in undergraduate enrollment from 2,322 traditional undergraduate students in fall 2019 to 2,161 in fall 2020. The school also saw the number of grad students decrease from 1,280 in fall 2019 to 1,359 in fall 2020. The university responded by reducing expenses, freezing salaries and budgets and furloughing more than 30 employees. In December, George Fox announced its 2021-22 traditional undergraduate tuition would be frozen at 2020-21 levels for the upcoming school year.
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