Students get ‘COVID bonus’ from feds, debt waiver from university

Most PNW students are sharing in $9.5 million in federal funds and student debt relief.

Financial awards totaling $7.8 million are being distributed directly to students facing financial hardships and those who are dealing with expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, the university said it has forgiven $1.7 million in student debt for the 2020-21 school year.

The federal funds come from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund III, part of the American Rescue Plan that was signed into law on March 11. The HEERF III program provided $39.6 billion in support to institutions of higher education to serve students and ensure learning continues during the pandemic.

“Over 5,000 students received direct deposits from the HEERF III and 724 students received relief in the form of debt forgiveness,” said Elizabeth Depew, interim executive associate vice chancellor for Enrollment Management, the administrator who issued the university’s announcement.

Distributions will be complete by the end of October, she said.

PNW announced that it would distribute funds to students who are enrolled for the fall 2021 semester and receive a Pell Grant, as well as those who have a FAFSA application on file.

Students who are Pell Grant recipients will receive $1,000 in federal funds. Students who have an FAFSA application on file will receive $400.

“HEERF III has helped ease a lot of financial burden this semester,” said Cesar Montemayor, a senior who received $1,000. “I was able to pay for my course material.”

Montemayor said the money helped him ease the stress of juggling the responsibility of being a full-time student and working up to 30 hours a week, when the work is available. He said his hours were limited during the pandemic, which compounded the financial stress.

Nadia Juarez, a third-year Biology student, used her cash to help lighten her family’s financial burden.

“Thanks to the $400 I received, I was able to buy a special calculator and the books that I needed,” she said.

Funds from the disbursement can be used for housing, food, course materials or health expenses and some students are grateful.

“I believe that this grant has helped many students,” said Stephanie Cruz, a Nursing student. “Although many students receive other grants … any small amount of money helps, especially for full-time students who cannot work as much.”

Students who have questions about the disbursement or the process should contact the Office of Financial Aid at [email protected] or (855) 608-4600.