CoronavirusNews

MCC students leave more than a million unclaimed in CARES relief funding

The campus is deserted mid-summer as MCC re-structures its facilities for the Fall. Photo by Brock Blasdell.
It has been two months since Mesa Community College (MCC) was awarded $7 million in relief funding under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Yet the fund, which had more than $3.5 million specifically earmarked for student relief, has had a difficult time reaching the campus population.

Only 2,700 of 8,000 eligible students have applied and received aid, according to MCC Senior Associate Vice President Carmen Newland. 

Despite multiple outreach efforts from the institution, only around $2.4 million had been distributed at the time of Newland’s interview. This means MCC has little over a million dollars in unclaimed student relief funding. 

“Our initial response was lower than we anticipated,” Newland said. 

Despite this, the school moved forward with an initial distribution in May of funds that ranged anywhere from $275 to $550 per student.

“We wanted to get the money into the hands of students as quickly as possible,” Newland said.

Still, the lack of response echoed, and only a handful of applications came at a time. Newland personally felt this was due to MCC emailing eligible students toward the end of the semester, or potentially because it came through their official Maricopa email.

“I know, especially now with everything with COVID, the offer of money, especially free money, seems too good to be true, but we still have a significant amount of money that we would like to distribute to students who need it,” Newland said. 

Efforts to reach students through text campaigns and social media outreach saw bursts of applications sporadically, but overall, numbers only continued to swell to 2,700.

When the school was informed they would receive additional funding due to their status as a Hispanic Serving Institution, they decided to implement a second round of distributions. The same batch of recipients saw increased awards ranging from $500 to $1000.

All of this has been done in phases. The first distribution was phase one, and the second was phase two. As of now, the school still considers itself in phase two, and will temporarily continue to apply aid to new recipients only.

However, Newland admits a third phase, and a third round of aid, may be possible should not enough students apply. 

“Our goal right now is to get as many eligible students as possible to respond to the form,” Newland said. “I encourage anyone who was enrolled at MCC in a face-to-face class, on March 13, in a degree or certificate seeking program, that they check their official Maricopa emails to see if they have received a notification. The subject line starts with ‘CARES funds available.’” 

Newland reported its half of the money, another $3.5 million, had been used to help prepare the spring 2020 semester for its online conversion, while also expanding IT capacity to meet demand for fall. In addition to handing out over 150 laptops to students, the funding also allowed the school to expand the end date for its career and technical education courses, such as welding, automotive, or veterinary technician pathways by paying for the necessary faculty contracts, technology and facility modifications.

“A considerable amount has been spent to increase the IT capacity,” Newland said, “So that we can maintain online and hybrid classes this fall while ensuring the safety of our students and staff.” 

To learn more about the qualifications for MCC’s student relief funding or to see other steps MCC has taken to help battle COVID-19, see mesacc.edu/coronavirus#cares.

About Author

Brock Blasdell is a student journalist from Mesa, Arizona. He was hired onto the Mesa Legend in late 2018 as an Opinions Editor, and soon became the publication’s News Editor in 2019. He is now an Alumnus Correspondent for the paper. His writings emphasize college history, civil involvement, and personal reflection on modern American issues, while also analyzing and critiquing the role of modern media in national politics. Twitter @Brockblasdell

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