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USF receives over $100 million in federal aid

The U.S. Department of Education announced May 11 the third round of funding for postsecondary institutions, which will award $36 billion to universities across the country and allow USF to distribute financial aid to thousands of its students. ORACLE PHOTO/LEDA ALVIM

As part of the Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan (ARP), USF will be receiving its biggest federal relief package to date of over $100 million to help struggling students and fund some of its own operations. 

The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) will be providing $102.29 million of aid to USF as part of the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund III (HEERF III), and the university is following guidance from the DOE to establish a plan for distributing the funds. Out of the total allocation, around $52 million will be designated for student aid and $50 million for institutional purposes, according to the DOE

There is no finalized time period as to when the funds will be released to students nor an official distribution plan, but Associate Vice President of USF Enrollment Planning and Management Billie Jo Hamilton estimated the release will occur around late summer or early fall 2021.

“We have not made any plans for the distribution of the HEERF III funds as guidance from the U.S. Department of Education is just now being released,” Hamilton said. “We are still distributing the HEERF II funds, so it may be late summer/fall before we start notifying students on the process for HEERF III.”

Among the requirements to qualify for the funds, eligible students must be currently enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate program at least half time with a Federal Student Aid application on file.

In the previous rounds, eligible students could receive up to $1,000 per semester. The awards for HEERF III are still yet to be decided, according to university spokesperson Adam Freeman.

USF is one of three Florida universities receiving over $100 million in funding from the DOE, alongside UCF and Florida International University receiving $155.3 million and $120.8 million, respectively, according to allocation information from the ARP.

UF received just over $87 million, and FSU received a little over $80 million.

President Steven Currall said he is eager to use these funds to properly support students who have found themselves struggling due to the effects of COVID-19.

“The emergency funding released under the American Rescue Plan will directly benefit students at the University of South Florida who have been most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Currall said.

The university has already received two rounds of emergency relief funds over the past year. The first was in April 2020, when the university received $34 million in total aid for student aid and institutional purposes. The second, released in March, awarded $58.2 million in total aid to the university. 

Currall said the administration is thankful for the continued funding, as it supports USF’s efforts to help students through the effects of the pandemic. 

“A top priority for USF throughout the pandemic has been the continuity of academic instruction and critical services to support the success of our students. We are grateful to receive this additional support, especially through funding to offset the financial strain on our students.”