St. Petersburg College students who lost jobs, fell behind on their tuition, or dropped out due to the coronavirus, got a little help from the school — $500 checks from the college’s COVID-19 relief package.
In fact, the college, which has campuses in St. Petersburg, Seminole, Clearwater, and other parts of Pinellas County, has awarded 10,423 students a total of $5,175,959 from the college’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act money.
“Many of our students are older, between the ages of 18 and 80 years old, adult learners who began college, and went into the workforce seeking a new career outlook,” said Rita Farlow, SPC’s executive director for marketing and strategic communication. “When COVID-19 hit, they lost their job, were working fewer hours, and because their children were not in school, were struggling to pay for day care and other needs.”
Students who filed a 2020-21 Free Application for Federal Student Aid, met federal financial aid eligibility requirements, and lost a job, income, or had medical expenses due to COVID-19, were eligible for the one-time grant, Farlow said.
The college made the money available to students on first-come, first-served basis via an online application on the school’s website. Applications were closed as of the second week of January, the college’s website shows. The college also set up a page for public donations to its Titan Student Emergency Fund at https://spcollegefoundation.spcollege.edu/. The emergency fund, which raised $148,492, was created for the same purpose — to help students hit by the crisis.
SPC student Gina Cook said the money helped her “sustain myself with food and shelter” at the height of the crisis.
Another beneficiary, Rene Demetrius, said the money helped her and her son “push though these moments of adversity and continue to create some normalcy for ourselves and our family. My son and I are eternally grateful.”
SPC paid the CARES Act grant to students whether they owed the college tuition money or not, said Michael J. Bennett, SPC’s associate vice president of financial assistance services. The money also went to refund students who failed or withdrew from the Spring 2020 term because of COVID-19.
Bennett said another program, called the SPC Cares More fund, with $1.2 million, provided grants of up to $1,000 to help students hit by COVID-19.
“We are very proud of how we pulled together funds from multiple sources and how quickly we distributed these much-needed funds to our students in the middle of a pandemic,” Bennett said.
The school hopes to distribute more money to students from the second COVID-19 relief bill, with $23 billion in institutional spending and student grants that passed in December, but details are unknown.
“We are not sure yet,” Farlow said. “We haven’t received information on what our allotment will be and what the guidelines will be on how it is to be used.”