Federal relief has positive effect on Clark State students, campus

Clark Clark State College students and its campus infrastructure continue to be impacted by the Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds (HEERF) that were provided due to the coronavirus pandemic. BILL LACKEY/STAFF
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Clark Clark State College students and its campus infrastructure continue to be impacted by the Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds (HEERF) that were provided due to the coronavirus pandemic. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Half of aid went directly to students for emergency financial support and other half went to the college for relief to COVID-19 related expenses.

Clark State College students and its campus infrastructure continue to be impacted by the Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds (HEERF) that were provided due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The college received $21,511,095 in funding through the CARES Act, according to a release from the school. Half of the money went directly to students for emergency financial support and the other half went to the college to provide financial relief related to COVID-19 expenses.

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Clark State has distributed $4,728,992 of funds to students (up to $1,500 to each qualified student each semester) as of Sept. 30, and will continue to provide funds to students until all available funds have been distributed. A majority of the funds have been applied to housing and food security needs.

Student Tori May, who is studying psychology and English, is one student who was positively impacted by the relief funds.

May said she is a “non-traditional college student” who has to worry about things the average 18-year-old freshman may not. She said she has been on her own for a few years as her mother died during the middle of a semester and she had to become used to living on her own after surviving “horrible living conditions.”

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“Some days it lingers in my mind all the things that need to be done or thought about: ‘Will I have enough for rent and utilities this month without having to worry about using my savings? Will I have enough time to study for my classes outside of or even during my working hours? How many hours can I cut back on before it becomes too detrimental to me?’ ” she said.

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Tori May. Contributed

Tori May. Contributed
Caption
Tori May. Contributed

“I think about these things often as I study, wondering if a catastrophe will hit and I’ll be left wondering if I will be able to come through financially ... COVID-19 was one such catastrophe, taking away that financial cushion that I worked so painfully hard to create and maintain as a safety net and investment for success between two jobs,” May added.

May said the pandemic also affected her livelihood with everything she’s built and also delayed her education, but the assistance from the funds has helped her reestablish her financial cushion.

“Between TRIO and the HEERF funds I received as part of the COVID-19 relief plan, I feel that I am steadily coming back to the place I once was before the pandemic hit,” she said.

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The funds, which are able to be spent through 2023, will not only improve student lives, but also student services.

Doug Schantz, vice president of business affairs, said the college has spent nearly $1.5 million dollars on technology infrastructure enhancements including virtual classroom audio and visual setups, loaner laptops, disaster recovery and system resiliency systems, online tutoring and testing, virtualized desktops, electronic document storage, data fiber runs, virtual labs, and internet bandwidth expansion.

He said the college will also be investing over $3.5 million in HVAC upgrades across campus to allow more fresh air into facilities and promote better air quality.

“Outside of this direct distribution of support/funds to students, the top priorities for Clark State’s use of the remaining HEERF funds has been to deploy them on initiatives that promote the safety and well-being of our students, staff, and faculty during the pandemic and on technology infrastructure investments that support a continuous uninterrupted learning experience for our students,” Schantz said.

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