About HEERF III Funding

The American Rescue Plan (ARP), signed into federal law on March 11, 2021, authorized the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund III (HEERF III) for college students.

Funding Amount

The ARP requires institutions of higher education to allocate a significantly higher amount of HEERF III funding directly to students than did its predecessors: HEERF I, which was authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) and HEERF II, authorized by the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA).  For Penn College, the HEERF III funding amount, as determined by the U.S. Department of Education, is $7,365,779. The College's process of providing CARES Act and CRRSAA funding to students is detailed here.

Eligibility Review Process for HEERF III Grants

Beginning in June 2021, a Penn College committee carefully reviewed the ARP requirements for disbursing HEERF III funding, which outlined that institutions prioritize students with 'exceptional need' while also expanding eligibility to student populations not eligible for prior HEERF funding. The committee determined eligibility for HEERF III Grants based on the following criteria.

Student Eligibility Criteria

To be awarded a HEERF III Grant, a student must:

  • Be enrolled during Fall 2021 semester and have not been withdrawn or ceased to attend all classes on or before September 3, 2021, which is the end of our Drop-Add (20%) period for full-semester classes.
  • Have graduated from the Penn College Wellsboro Practical Nursing clock-hour program on September 8, 2021.
  • Be enrolled in the current Penn College Wellsboro Practical Nursing clock-hour program, which began September 20, 2021, and not withdrawn or ceased to attend on or before October 11, 2021, which is the 20% point of the first payment period.

A total of 4,277 Penn College students satisfied the eligibility criteria.

HEERF III Grant Usage

Federal regulations state that HEERF III 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
    • Transportation
    • 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. 

EFCs from finalized 2021-22 FAFSAs that were finalized as of September 8, 2021 were used. For the current Wellsboro Practical Nursing clock-hour program, which began on September 20, 2021, EFCs from 2021-22 FAFSA that were finalized as of October 11, 2021 were used.

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 4,277 eligible students to receive HEERF III Grants.

HEERF III Grant Tiers and Amounts

Award amounts and details are listed below.  

2021-22 FAFSA EFC HEERF III Grant Amount Number of Students
0 to 5,846 $2,400 1465
5,847 to 12,000 $1,850 589
Above 12,000 or no finalized FAFSA $1,225 2223

The tiered funding demonstrates that the College is prioritizing exceptional need while still recognizing the impact that COVID-19 continues to have on most of our students and families. The tier with the highest HEERF III 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 HEERF III, HEERF II and CARES Act (HEERF I) 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 III Grant amount consists of students who, for the most part, are not eligible for either the Federal Pell Grant or PA State Grant. It includes students from whom the College had not received a finalized 2021-22 FAFSA as of the dates stated in the Prioritizing 'Exceptional Need' section above.

Student Communications - November 2021

On November 9, 2021 two messages to students were sent to inform them of the HEERF III funding. Both messages referenced this HEERF III Grants page.

  • An email, sent to all active students via their Penn College email, provided a general overview of HEERF III funding and referenced this website page.
  • An email that included the amount of the HEERF III Grant award and explained the disbursement process was sent to all awardees’ Penn College email.

The College recognizes the importance of the appropriate use of HEERF III 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.

Disbursement of HEERF III Grants

On November 10, 2021, HEERF III Grant awards were distributed electronically via BankMobile Disbursements, a third-party partner that disburses refunds and virtually all students can access. The award email sent on November 9, 2021 informed students that they could view and/or change their refund preference and they could also select a refund preference if not previously done.

HEERF III Grant awards will be disbursed via paper check to those students who did not select a BankMobile refund preference or who do not have access to BankMobile.

Awarding Through Financial Hardship Requests

Awarding to individual students by a Penn College HEERF III Committee that reviews Financial Hardship Notifications submitted by students began early in Fall 2021 semester. Enrolled students who documented immediate and high financial need with extenuating circumstances were awarded HEERF III emergency funding as follows:

  • August 18, 2021 – $1,000 was disbursed to 1 student
  • August 25, 2021 – $2,000 was disbursed to 1 student
  • September 29, 2021 – $981 was disbursed to 1 student
  • October 20, 2021 – $1,000 was disbursed to 1 student
  • November 17, 2021 – $3,300 was disbursed to 1 student 
  • January 12, 2022 – $5,009.95 was disbursed to 1 student
  • January 19, 2022 – $3,367 was disbursed to 2 students
  • January 26, 2022 – $2,257.43 was disbursed to 1 student
  • February 2, 2022 – $2,341.58 was disbursed to 2 students 
  • February 9, 2022 – $4,400 was disbursed to 1 student 
  • February 23, 2022 – $9,402.04 was disbursed to 2 students 
  • March 2, 2022 – $1,895 was disbursed to 1 student 

Financial hardship awarding will continue until all remaining HEERF III funds are depleted.