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College CARE funding

West Virginia colleges should soon be getting emergency grants in the hundreds of thousands and millions of dollars each to give money directly to students, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

The minimum amounts to be made available for students range from about $106,000 for Eastern Community and Technical College to $10.1 million at West Virginia University.

BridgeValley Community and Technical College will have $723,000 to give out, while West Virginia State University will have $800,000.

The U.S. Department of Education said each college will receive roughly double the amount of money they’re getting now, so WVU, at the highest end of the spectrum locally, will get $20.2 million. But that other half of the funding isn’t required to — but could still be — used to financially aid students.

Counting both halves of the funding, Jessica Tice, spokeswoman for the state’s higher education oversight agencies, said the state’s public colleges will altogether receive more than $55 million.

In a letter to college presidents Thursday, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos wrote that “each [college] may develop its own system and process for determining how to allocate these funds, which may include distributing the funds to all students or only to students who demonstrate significant need.”

“The only statutory requirement is that the funds be used to cover expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to coronavirus (including eligible expenses under a student’s cost of attendance, such as food, housing, course materials, technology, health care, and child care),” DeVos wrote.

“With that said, I would like to encourage the leadership of each institution to prioritize your students with the greatest need, but at the same time consider establishing a maximum funding threshold for each student to ensure that these funds are distributed as widely as possible.”

She also asked that colleges who feel their students don’t have significant need share their funds with other schools.

The money, $6.28 billion nationally, is from the recently passed federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, according to a news release from the federal department.

“School allocations are set by formula prescribed in the CARES Act that is weighted significantly by the number of full-time students who are Pell-eligible,” the release said, “but also takes into consideration the total population of the school and the number of students who were not enrolled full-time online before the coronavirus outbreak.”

Pell Grants are federal grants that existed long before the pandemic for students in financial need.

Speaking Friday on MetroNews radio, which previously reported the funding for colleges, Sarah Tucker said the U.S. Department of Education hopes the money will be in colleges’ hands around Wednesday.

Tucker, chancellor of the state higher education oversight agencies, said she expects more guidance next week.

The U.S. Department of Education’s release said colleges can use the part of the money that doesn’t have to go to students directly to “cover costs associated with significant changes to the delivery of instruction due to the coronavirus.”

Tucker told MetroNews that “our colleges have done a lot to get our students and get our institutions into a place where they can do fully online learning and that comes at a significant cost.”