The university converts part of its loans into grants for the 2020-2021 academic year
The majority of university loans for the 2020-2021 academic year are converted to scholarships, meaning that students who have accepted these loan offers into their financial aid programs will not need to repay them as they would. usually.
Rachelle Feldman, deputy director and director of scholarships and student aid, said that since the Office of Scholarships and Student Aid was able to leverage COVID-19 funding to ease the pressure on the ‘college grant money, he was able to help students more in this way.
The grants are aimed at relieving student stress, but are limited to students who have already received financial aid from the University.
“We thought it made a lot of sense to help students relax a bit about their future loan debt and sort of reduce their total overall borrowing,” Feldman said.
To fund the program, Feldman said the office intended to use the federal COVID-19 economic relief bill in addition to working with partners and academic development to find private donors. It’s also part of an effort called Carolina Edge, which aims to raise $ 1 billion for student support.
“We haven’t reached that goal yet, but we have a lot of buy-in from the chancellor’s development office that it’s a great goal to keep trying to achieve,” Feldman said.
These grants differ from emergency loans – which are short-term, interest-free loans aimed at helping students who need temporary funds to pay rent and living expenses, she said. Emergency loans are not approved to pay for college fees, such as tuition, and must be repaid before their due date.
Meeting the additional needs created by the pandemic will require approximately double the funding for students the University has received through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.
Feldman said there was currently no plan to fund or distribute block grants for the spring semester, as happened with the coronavirus relief bill during the fall. She said it is not clear when the federal relief bill will be available, but that there is still money for students applying for emergency loans.
Noe Brown, finance director of the Commission on Campus Equality and Student Equity, said converting loans into grants is a step forward for the University. But, she said, other steps could be taken.
“I really think it’s huge because the grants allow people to have more financial freedom,” Brown said. “The distinction between the two certainly causes problems. “
Through the commission, Brown said she sees confusion over how financial aid and grants are distributed. She said the UNC needs a better communication system because finances can be life or death for some people who depend on repayments to pay for rent, books and groceries.
“We’ve even seen in polls before that students are giving up on meal plans just to pay for textbooks,” she said. “Students shouldn’t have to do this just because the books are unreasonably priced and the financial aid isn’t enough.
She said she wanted to see more transparency on how the funds are distributed.
“When you have something as important as finances that aren’t understandable and applicable to everyone, that’s a really huge barrier that the UNC has to break down as soon as possible,” Brown said.
Financial issues are also present with students who were unable to receive help during the pandemic.
Alexandra Domrongchai, a junior specializing in American studies, said she had not been able to complete the free application for federal student aid during her graduate years and had not received a subsidy from the CARES law.
She said her teachers and counselors told her to apply for financial aid to see if she could receive emergency funds, but instead received links to complete the FAFSA and was told to report as a dependent when they were unable to do so. She said someone else told her to apply for funding for academic merit scholarships, which can be competitive and time consuming.
To pay for the spring semester tuition fees, Domrongchai said she feeds nearly 30 hours per week.
She said she tried to apply for emergency loans but was unable to receive the money because she was not in full-time schooling.
“Students shouldn’t have to beg for financial aid, or shouldn’t have to make an effort to get it themselves,” Domrongchai said. “It shouldn’t be a reward if you’re resourceful. “
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