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What students can expect from the American Rescue Plan Act

  • University News
  • Covid-19

The University of Pittsburgh will distribute $31.9 million in funds to more than 30,000 students on all five campuses as part of the latest coronavirus relief package that was approved earlier this year, the University announced today.

On March 21, 2021, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) was signed into law. The bill authorized $39.6 billion in COVID-19 relief funding for higher education. Of that amount, the University of Pittsburgh received $54.7 million, which is more than the two previous federal aid packages combined.

The University is required to distribute half of this money to students to help cover expenses related to the disruption caused by COVID-19. However, given the impact the pandemic has had on some doctoral and graduate students whose funding was exhausted by the end of the spring 2021 or summer 2021 terms, the University is providing an additional $4.5 million to assist them with degree completion.

With this third round of federal funding, Pitt has received a total of $111 million in relief funds, with $58.3 million going directly to students. This reflects the University’s commitment to affordability and supporting students through these programs as well as Pitt initiatives such as the Pitt Success Pell Match program and Panthers Forward.

“Given the tremendous needs created by the pandemic, we felt it was important to support students in ways that went beyond the federal requirements,” said Hari Sastry, senior vice chancellor and chief financial officer. He said the remaining $22.9 million in relief monies from ARPA will be used to offset institutional expenses related to the pandemic, such as testing, personal protective equipment and new technology in the classrooms.

How funds will be distributed

The ARPA encourages higher education institutions to prioritize students with the greatest need, and it enables universities to provide grants to non-citizen students.

To be considered eligible, students must be enrolled at least half time for the fall 2021 term, and students can only receive one grant, which will be distributed by the week of Oct. 11, 2021. Students can give consent to use their grant to satisfy any outstanding account balance with the University if they wish.

“In accordance with the ARPA guidelines, Pitt is broadly distributing funds to graduate and undergraduate students in a way that supports and helps them complete their educational journeys,” said Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor Ann E. Cudd. “In response to effects of the pandemic, we are eager to provide grants as broadly as possible to assist our students. It is the right thing to do.” 

Pitt will distribute funding through these programs.

  • FAFSA students: Undergraduate and graduate students who, as of Sept. 16, 2021, had a 2021-22 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) on file with the University and demonstrated financial need. Eligible students will receive a grant of $600 or $1,200, depending on their financial need based on FAFSA information. Students whose FAFSA data is incomplete or under review are included in the non-FAFSA group.
  • Non-FAFSA students: Undergraduate and graduate students who have not filed a FAFSA are receiving an email at their email address from the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid that outlines a process to receive a grant in the event they incurred unexpected expenses during the pandemic. The application asks students to attest to emergency needs in categories such as tuition, food, housing, health care (including mental health care) and childcare. The deadline to apply for a grant is by 11:59 p.m. ET on Sept. 30, 2021. 
  • Seniors with unmet need: Approximately 400 seniors will receive grants that will average $7,500, reducing each student’s unmet need to $20,000 on the Pittsburgh campus and $15,000 on the regional campuses. These seniors would have been eligible for the Pitt Success program had it been in place when they were first-year students when the program launched in 2019. Students may wish to use these funds to pay down educational loans.

Additionally, some PhD and doctoral students with appointments and fellowships have had their progress toward degree completion delayed by one or more terms due to pandemic-related issues. The University is providing funding from its institutional relief funding to support these individuals.

Managing the institutional share of ARPA funds

The institutional share of the ARPA funds will be used to offset expenses related to COVID-19 including lost revenue and reimbursement for expenses associated with bringing students and faculty to campus. Since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, COVID-related net expenses have totaled more than $160 million.

ARPA represents the third round of COVID-related federal relief. The University received $21.3 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act in March 2020 and $30.6 million from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA) in January 2021.