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Cornell to distribute $8.5M to students in need

Cornell is distributing $8.5 million – including a new $1 million emergency relief fund and $7.5 million in grants to offset the loss of anticipated summer income – to help eligible students with financial needs arising from the COVID-19 pandemic during the current academic year.

The new funding follows the distribution of nearly $5 million in emergency grants to more than 4,000 students in the spring semester, through the CARES Act Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund. The $12.8 million CARES Act award included up to $6.4 million in direct relief for students, with the remaining $6.4 million intended for related institutional expenses, but President Martha E. Pollack has said that 100% of the federal funding will directly aid students.

“Right at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, Cornell committed to continue to fully meet the needs of all undergraduate students, as we always have, regardless of what that commitment might cost,” said Jonathan Burdick, vice provost for enrollment. “We also committed that every dollar that came in through the CARES Act would be turned around and given to students, and we’re following through on both of those commitments.”

More than $2 million, largely raised from donations to Cornell or diverted from other operational costs, will supplement the repurposed CARES Act funds, Burdick said. The CARES Act award was determined based on Cornell’s total enrollment and the number of students receiving Pell grants.

For this semester, Cornell has created a new $1 million emergency fund for students with urgent needs that were unforeseen when their financial aid packages were calculated. More information about this fund can be found on the Office of Financial Aid and Student Employment website.

“We know students have expenses related to the pandemic that they would not have had otherwise,” said Diane Corbett, executive director of financial aid. “We understand students’ and families’ economic uncertainty right now, and we are keeping our commitment to assist our students, regardless of their circumstances, in the forefront of everything we do.”

The university is also distributing $7.5 million in COVID Summer Savings Expectation Grants. These grants, ranging from $500 to $2,000, will be awarded to around 75% of undergraduate students who receive financial aid, in light of the fact that summer jobs may have been canceled or particularly difficult to obtain due to the pandemic. Students awarded these grants will receive a revised financial aid statement in October.

“This is intended to acknowledge the fact that their summer employment opportunities were not as great as they were supposed to be, and that students might be struggling with bills during this year,” Burdick said. “We know that some of our students in the lowest-income circumstances are among those most likely to live in the communities most hurt by unemployment. So we targeted our funding and support to help those whose circumstances are the hardest.”

Students experiencing hardship can appeal to the financial aid office for additional support.

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Abby Butler