Giving relief funds to students

The YSU Foundation helped students with financial funding at the beginning of the pandemic. Photo by Jessica Stamp / The Jambar

By Jessica Stamp

The federal government  issued a funding of about $15.4 million for the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund III grant to help Youngstown State University students with financial expenses due to the pandemic. 

The HEERF III grant was part of a series of other grants issued, with $5 million for the HEERF II and another $5 million for the HEERF I. YSU received a total amount of about $26 million from these grants.

“The emphasis was on technology and housing and food … then it kind of evolved to loss of employment,” Elaine Ruse, associate vice president for student enrollment and business services, said. “So the definition of what they felt were pandemic related expenses that the students [and their] families needed these funds for evolved.” 

According to HEERF III grants to Students Website Reporting, 11,224 students have been given the HEERF III grant to date.

“We’ve received lots of comments from students and families that, if it wasn’t for these funds, they may not have been able to afford their rent or for food or ultimately continue their education,” Patrick Hoffman, director of financial aid and scholarships, said.

The HEERF III funding is issued to students in a block-grant approach that determines which students receive financial aid first. The United States government asked to prioritize the population of students who are in exceptional financial need. The first group was undergraduate students, the second group was domestic students taking undergraduate classes and the last group was graduate and international students. 

“We’ve already awarded over 81% of our almost $15.4 million to the populations of students,” Ruse said. 

In the beginning of the pandemic, not all students qualified for a HEERF grant. 

The first two HEERF grants were issued for students who were eligible. With the HEERF III, it opened up eligibility for more students who were enrolled on and after March 13, 2020.

“Initially, it wasn’t all students. It was basically students who were titled for [eligibility],” Ruse said.  “So, that excluded a number of populations on campus and then toward the end of our processing of HEERF II grant funding … the department of education updated the definition of the eligible students and it expanded to … all populations.” 

Before YSU was receiving federal funds, the YSU Foundation was helping students with financial need by creating the Penguin to Penguin fund. 

“Through donated funds that the university administered out through an application process and that was back very early on when all of this happened,” Ruse said.

Ruse said by the end of October, all students will receive HEERF III.

Anyone with questions or concerns about federal and state aid eligibility can contact the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships at [email protected]