The most common questions about the CARES act for students and higher education

1. What is the CARES/Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund provided by the federal government?

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act was passed by Congress and signed into law to provide economic relief from COVID-19. A section of the CARES Act established the Higher Education Emergency Relief fund providing money to schools to use for emergency financial aid grants to students for expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to the pandemic.

2. When will CARES/Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds be available?

Many colleges and universities applied for funding from the federal CARES Act. Once a college receives the funding from the U.S. Department of Education, colleges will begin distributing grants to students based on their financial need.

3. Who is eligible for the CARES/Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds?

Students who meet basic eligibility criteria for federal financial aid and who have the greatest financial need can be considered for these funds.

The U.S. Department of Education’s rules for the program state that these funds can be awarded to undergraduate, graduate, and professional students pursuing degree programs and enrolled at an approved institution of higher learning.

The U.S. Department of Education does not allow these funds to be used for international students, undocumented students, non-matriculated students or students enrolled in distance-only degree programs.

4. What is a CARES ACT Relief Grant?

The CARES Act directed colleges and universities to prioritize students whose family income is in the low- to low-middle income categories. The purpose is to provide economic relief quickly to students who may have experienced additional expenses and/or a loss of income due to COVID-19.

These funds are meant to help students pay expenses for child-care, course materials, technology, health care, rent, food or other expenses. For students who have not yet experienced financial stress due to COVID-19, these funds can help with unanticipated expenses or income loss that may occur in the near term.

5. Why didn’t I receive a CARES Act Relief Grant?

Under U.S. Department of Education rules for the program, students who are not eligible for federal financial aid programs are not eligible for federal CARES grants.

If you are eligible for federal aid, but did not receive the CARES Act Relief standard grant described above, notify your college’s financial aid office for a review of your situation.

What emergency relief funds are available for undocumented students?

The U.S. Department of Education does not allow CARES funding to provide grants to undocumented students. Please contact your college or university financial aid office if you have questions.

6. What emergency relief funds are available for international students?

Under the U.S. Department of Education rules for the program, international students are not eligible for the federal CARES funds. Please contact your college or university financial aid office if you have questions.

7. Will there be CARES funds for 2020-21?

Please contact your college or university financial aid office.