Columbia University: Columbia to Disburse Federal COVID-19 Relief Funds to Students in Need

Columbia University announced today that it is launching the third phase of disbursement to students of federal COVID-19 relief funds. These funds are part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was passed by Congress in March 2020, a portion of which was given to the Office of Postsecondary Education as the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) and allotted in three rounds.

Columbia has designed its distribution of HEERF funds to target the neediest students and provide flexibility to schools to meet the emergent needs of students. The program launching this month will provide funding to the neediest students who are enrolled full time in schools or programs that do not already have a “meet need”/“no loan” or “fully funded” financial aid policy. All students in need may also be eligible for additional school-based emergency funding through the HEERF.

In a letter to school deans outlining how the distribution will work, Anne Sullivan, the university’s executive vice president for finance and information technology, wrote that HEERF 3 will be allocated in allotments for schools to provide $1,500 per student to the neediest third in each school. Schools will determine student eligibility for this portion of the program. Additional allotments for school-based emergency funding will make it possible for the school’s financial aid office to allocate supplemental aid to individual students who are experiencing financial hardship, including those students in programs that meet need or provide full funding and who may not be eligible for the $1,500 payment.

After this third phase disbursement, $1 million of federal COVID relief funds will remain unallocated, a resource to be designated for use after consultation with the Student Affairs Committee of the University Senate and used to support students in our community most in need.

Students will receive communications in the coming days from their schools’ financial aid offices, which will be administering these programs. General information about the program is available through Student Financial Services.

In total, the university has been awarded $32 million of funds for its students through HEERF. These federal funds have been provided as emergency aid for undergraduate, masters, and PhD students, with the first tranche that began in December 2020. Approximately 40 percent has already been distributed to students, and this latest disbursement represents the remaining 60 percent.

“The university is pleased to connect our students with this meaningful level of support from the federal government,” Sullivan said. “Over the past year this federal support has assisted students in myriad ways, from helping undergraduates whose employment opportunities were restricted due to COVID-19, to supporting graduate students whose research was interrupted because of the global pandemic.”