PROVO — Plenty of colleges and universities have faced financial difficulties as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic, which shuttered many campuses indefinitely and sent the majority of students home to complete schoolwork online.
That’s why the U.S. Congress set aside part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act for higher education.
Utah schools received more than $200 million in CARES Act funding, with nearly $100 million allotted to the state’s institutions of higher education.
The U.S. Department of Education initially said BYU would be allocated $32.2 million, the most of any institution in Utah. Utah Valley University, the state’s largest public college, received nearly $23 million in federal funding, Snow College received $2.4 million, and all other public colleges received varying amounts in between.
During a recent meeting among presidents of Utah’s public institutions of higher education, UVU President Astrid S. Tuminez said her school has already dispersed between $6 million and $11 million in financial relief to its students.
These funds can be used at the university’s discretion, but always to help students preserve their educational status during a time of financial hardship for many.
Brigham Young University hasn’t dispersed any federal funds. In fact, the state’s largest private university doesn’t plan to.
Instead, BYU is introducing its own plan to assist students in financial distress caused by the disruption of the winter 2020 semester, the university revealed in a recent statement. The private funds, which are made available by the university, will be available through an application eligible students can access through the school’s internal message service (YMessage).
“BYU, like every private and public institution of higher education, has experienced and will continue to experience significant financial loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” part of the university’s statement reads. “Our students have also been affected. However, we believe we can assist our students without the CARES Act funds.”
The U.S. Department of Education has been notified of the school’s decision.
All matriculated students who were enrolled in classes at BYU prior to March 13 are eligible to apply for the funds. That includes international students, DACA and undocumented students, as well as those who graduated in April.
The decision comes after long consultation amongst university officials, and with guidance from principles of the school’s sponsoring religious institution, BYU spokesperson Carri Jenkins told KSL.com.
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has long taught self-reliance principles that help people manage during times of personal and community crisis,” said Jenkins, citing a message sent to students. “After expending their own resources and seeking assistance from family members, individuals are counseled to turn to the church community. In that spirit, we have identified university funds that can be used to provide assistance to matriculated students enrolled during winter semester 2020 who need external help to meet the basic needs deprived them by the COVID-19 outbreak.”
The new funds will come from the university and not the Church, Jenkins told KSL.com.
“We have been carefully studying this situation for some time,” Jenkins said. “We have seen the financial strain this pandemic has put on other higher education institutions and determined that we could assist our students without the CARES Act funds. Our hope is that the money allocated to BYU can now go to other institutions.”
The university will also continue to provide more than 13,000 on-campus jobs to students when the pandemic recedes enough to allow for the resumption of academic life.
“We will continue to look for opportunities throughout this pandemic to assist our students, who remain our first priority,” the university statement says.
None of the other church-owned schools will receive CARES Act funds, according to statements from each respective university.
BYU's sister campuses in Idaho and Hawaii were to be allocated $18 and $2.3 million, respectively, according to the U.S. Department of Education. LDS Business College, the soon-to-be-renamed Ensign College in Salt Lake City that also operates under the Church Educational System, was allocated $1.4 million, for a total of $54.17 million to have been granted to church-owned schools.