The district also expects $96.6 million from the American Rescue Plan by summer, administrator said.
By Sergio Medina
The Alamo Colleges will begin distribution of a minimum of $11.3 million in student emergency aid from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act within the first two weeks of April, Priscilla Camacho, director of government and community relations, said in a phone interview April 1.
The district was allocated $87.96 million from the $900 billion CRRSA Act approved by Congress in December.
Of the $81.9 billion allocated to the education sector, $22.7 billion is headed to higher education.
It was not until mid-March that the funds were fully cleared to the Alamo Colleges, Camacho said.
Each college received funds from the CRRSA Act based on enrollment:
- Northeast Lakeview College received $4.41 million.
- Northwest Vista College received $15.42 million.
- Palo Alto College received $8.48 million.
- Philip’s College received $8.6 million.
- San Antonio College received $17.95 million.
The CRRSA Act also allocated the following funds to these colleges for being Minority-Serving Institutions, or MSI:
- Northwest Vista College: $855,160.
- Palo Alto College: $473,598.
- Philip’s College: $30,775,853.
- San Antonio College: $991,224.
Under the MSI denomination are Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) and Historically Black Colleges or Universities (HBCU). Camacho said because St. Philip’s College falls under both categories, it was eligible for a grant of $30 million, which is included in the CRRSA Act allocation.
The colleges will begin distributing student emergency aid to students applying for it within the first two weeks of April.
She said the allocated $11.3 million for student emergency aid from the CRRSA Act are a minimum because the act requires institutions to spend at least the same amount of money in student aid as was spent through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES Act, the first stimulus package approved in March 2020.
More money from the $87.96 million is planned to be allocated into student emergency aid by the Senior Leadership Team, composed of Chancellor Mike Flores, vice chancellors and the presidents of the five colleges, she said.
Camacho said paying tuition will be possible with aid from the second stimulus package. That was not the case for funds which came from the CARES Act.
“They can pay for tuition with it, and they can pay any outstanding balances that they have,” Camacho said. “So we have students who maybe they couldn’t enroll this semester because they owed a balance for last fall. They can come back and apply, and we can start working with those students.”
Students could not use tuition expenses as a reason to apply for emergency aid from the CARES Act.
“Students really were limited in terms of using it for expenses associated with having been impacted by Covid,” she said. “They could use it for technology, they could use it for childcare, rent, all those things, but one of the limitations was that the student couldn’t elect to say, ‘Hey, I’m applying for aid, but I want it specifically to help with my tuition.’
“This time, they can, and that’s a huge benefit to the students.”
Camacho said the application requirements for new emergency aid have also changed. The CARES Act required students to be eligible for the FAFSA.
“That excluded a lot of students, including dual-enrolled, continuing ed and a lot of our workforce program students.
“Now, the eligibility is quite a bit more expansive: dual-enrollment students, non-degree-seeking, continuing ed, non-credit,” she said.
Additionally, that extends to online program students.
However, Camacho said the district is waiting on clarification from the Department of Education on whether international and DACA students are eligible.
“Unfortunately, right now many of our undocumented and DACA students are ineligible.”
Only students seeking asylum in the U.S. and those declared refugees are eligible, she said.
She said the website in use for emergency aid information will be updated with CRRSA Act information and criteria in early April. The website can be found here.
Students can also contact the district student helpline for more information at 210-486-1111.
Apart from student aid, Camacho said institutionalized funds will go toward the planning of an increased population cap by the summer and fall.
Currently, the cap is at less than 5% for all colleges.
Kristi Wyatt, vice chancellor of communications and engagement, said in an email April 6 that the district is planning scenarios for a 50% in-person attendance on campuses by the fall.
Though still under development, the tentative plan is to begin at a 10% population cap for May, 25% for the summer and 50% for the fall, she said.
Wyatt said the finalized plans for the cap will be released to the public in the week of April 12-16.
About the cap, Camacho said, “That requires planning and some additional resources on the campuses, to include some health and safety officers, PPE (personal protective equipment) and other supplies needed.
“We don’t know when Covid will end, and so we have to utilize those best practices that have been working for us, for those who have been on-site, and making sure that we have that to accommodate an increased flow of people.”
Other areas of expenditure include technology and IT support for students and employees.
“We’re not going to be at 100% right away. Part of that means that we have to accommodate socially distanced learning,” Camacho said.
Additionally, she said funds will go toward advocacy centers and other areas of student support like classroom modifications and resources.
She said a finalized plan on how the district will use the funds granted by the second stimulus package will be presented during the regular meeting of the board of trustees April 20.
The Alamo Colleges also will receive an estimated $96.33 million in stimulus funds from the American Rescue Plan, the third stimulus package since the pandemic began, signed into law by President Joe Biden March 11.
However, Camacho said it is not yet clear when those funds will come in, but the district expects them sometime in the summer.
The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan provides $122 billion in funds for K-12 schools, and $40 billion for higher education institutions.