The CRRSAA requires institutions of higher education to allocate the same amount of funding directly to students as did the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). For Penn College, that amount, as determined by the U.S. Department of Education, is $2,670,735. The College’s process of providing CARES Act funding to students is detailed here.
Eligibility Review Process for HEERF II Grants
In February and March 2021, a Penn College committee carefully reviewed the CRRSAA requirements for disbursing HEERF II funding, which outlined that institutions prioritize students with ‘exceptional need.’
The committee also reviewed guidance from the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) and considered funding plans from a variety of other higher education institutions to establish student eligibility criteria.
Student Eligibility Criteria
To be awarded a HEERF II Grant, a student must:
- Be enrolled for Spring 2021 semester and not withdrawn as of March 30, 2021
- Have completed a 2020-21 Penn College Financial Aid Authorization (FAA) as of March 30, 2021
- Have completed a 2020-21 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) received by Penn College as of March 30, 2021
- Be confirmed as a U.S. citizen or ‘eligible non-citizen’, per U.S. Department of Education regulation, as of March 30, 2021
A total of 3,494 Penn College students satisfied all of the eligibility criteria.
HEERF II Grant Usage
Federal regulations state that HEERF II Grants may be used for:
- Any component of students’ educational cost of attendance, or for
- Emergency costs due to COVID-19, such as:
- Tuition and fees
- Child or family care
- Food and housing assistance
- Medical care, including mental health
- Additional course materials (textbooks, access codes, etc.)
- Technology assistance (computers, internet, etc.)
Prioritizing ‘Exceptional Need’
The Penn College committee determined that the Federal Title IV eligibility index from the FAFSA, historically termed ‘EFC’, was an important tool to prioritize students with exceptional need. The decision to use EFC from the 2020-21 FAFSA necessitated a submitted FAFSA and FAA.
EFCs from finalized 2020-21 FAFSAs as of March 30, 2021 were used, which accounted for any financial hardship notifications submitted to the Financial Aid Office with complete documentation as of that date.
The lowest possible EFC is 0 (zero). In general, the lower a student’s EFC, the higher the student’s family financial need. Conversely, the higher a student’s EFC, the lower the student’s family financial need. These principles play major roles in how the U.S. Department of Education and the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) determine government grant eligibility for the Federal Pell Grant and the PA State Grant, respectively.
Consideration of Widespread Impact
There is a wide range of FAFSA EFC values for Penn College students every year. Because the College is mindful that students and families across all economic backgrounds have experienced the financial impact of COVID-19, the College felt it was important for all 3,494 eligible students to receive HEERF II Grants.
HEERF II Grant Tiers & Amounts
Award amounts and details are listed below.
|2020-21 FAFSA EFC||HEERF II Grant Amount||Number of Students|
|0 to 5,711||$1,000||1460|
|5,712 to 12,000||$800||570|
The tiered funding demonstrates that the College is prioritizing exceptional need while still recognizing the impact that COVID-19 has had on most of our students and families. The tier with the highest HEERF II Grant amount consists of students with EFCs that potentially make them eligible for a Federal Pell Grant.
The number of enrolled students who were Federal Pell Grant recipients in recent years is a contributing factor to the amount that colleges received for both the HEERF I and CARES Act funding.
The EFCs of students in the middle tier are higher than that of Pell-eligible students. However, these EFCs fall in the range for which PHEAA considers many Pennsylvania resident students for a PA State Grant.
The tier with the lowest HEERF II Grant amount consists of students who, for the most part, are not eligible for either the Federal Pell Grant or PA State Grant.
Student Communications - March 2021
On March 10, 2021, all active students were initially informed of the HEERF II funding via an AdminWire email message, which referred students to a Financial Aid myPCT Portal page. The portal page provided a general overview of HEERF II and advised students of the need to have a completed 2020-21 FAA and FAFSA no later than March 23, 2021 to be considered for eligibility.
Student Communications - April 2021
On April 22, 2021 two messages to students were sent. Both messages referenced our COVID-19 Financial Aid Information page.
- An email, sent to all active students via their Penn College email, provided a general overview of HEERF II funding and referenced this website page.
- An email with the amount of the HEERF II Grant award and the date the award would be mailed was sent to all awardees’ Penn College email.
The College recognizes the importance of the appropriate use of HEERF II funds. The email sent to awardees also included information on how students who believe they do not have a need for the funds during the national COVID-19 emergency could discuss their circumstances with the Financial Aid team.
On April 22, 2021, HEERF II Grant award checks were mailed via USPS to the permanent mailing addresses, per SIS, of all HEERF II Grant awardees. All HEERF II funding was awarded on this date.