Calhoun Community College officials are hoping COVID-19 relief fund reimbursements planned for this fall will motivate students to return to  classes after the pandemic affected attendance last year.

The college announced this week plans to reimburse $750 to $1,500 to students taking credit-hour courses this fall semester, using $7.8 million in federal funds from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund III.

Wallace State Community College in Hanceville announced recently that it will distribute at least $7 million in COVID-19 relief funds. A majority of Wallace State students qualify for the award under federal guidelines. Payments will vary.

Calhoun Interim President Jimmy Hodges said the purpose of this stimulus grant is to ensure that teaching and learning continue during the pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all of us in some way or another,” Hodges said. “We know there have been hardships and some students may have put education on hold. We’re hoping this stimulus grant will help them get back on track.”

Spokesman Wes Torain estimated that 8,000 to 10,000 students, including high school students taking dual enrollment, will qualify.

“We don't know exactly how many students will receive the stimulus payment because it is based upon the number of students who will enroll for the fall '21 semester, so we'll have to wait and see our final head count,” Torain said.

Torain said only students taking for-credit classes will receive the reimbursement. Students taking non-credit classes won’t qualify. Students will have to enroll, pay tuition and attend class when Calhoun begins the fall semester on Aug. 18.

The students would then receive the reimbursement in October or November, he said.

“Students will receive the reimbursement even if they are on scholarship or receiving a federal financial aid from a program like the Pell Grant,” Torain said.

Students won’t have to contact the college to apply for the reimbursement. Calhoun and Wallace officials said they will use information provided by students who enroll next month for the new semester. Calhoun students must respond to the official email they will receive from the college.

The money may be used for any component of a student’s cost of attendance. Students may use the money for expenses including tuition, food, housing, course materials, child care, and health care.

The U.S. Department of Education announced in May that more than $36 billion in emergency grants would be available under the American Rescue Plan Act for postsecondary education. These grants will help over 5,000 institutions of higher education.

Emergency funds provided by the act more than double the emergency relief aid available to students and institutions already authorized under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act relief legislation.

This funding is provided with a new formula requiring at least half of the funding to be used by each institution to provide direct relief to students, the Department of Education said.

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