CARES Act Funding to Assist Students, Improve Online Programming

William E. Fulford Building on sunny summer day.

WINTERVILLE—A relief package Congress approved this spring in response to the coronavirus will provide Pitt Community College with more than $5.5 million to assist students affected by the pandemic and improve online course delivery technology.

On March 27, President Donald Trump signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which directed more than $2 trillion toward protecting Americans from the public health and economic impacts of COVID-19. North Carolina received more than $2 billion through the legislation, and the General Assembly designated $120 million for the state’s 58 community colleges.

As required by law, PCC will spend at least 50 percent of its allotment (roughly $2.76 million) on student aid. The college notified eligible students of the emergency aid’s availability and received more than 1,900 applications.

According to PCC Financial Aid Director Lee Bray, a team of financial aid and grants management staff reviewed the applications and awarded $2.7 million to assist students with expenses the coronavirus created by disrupting campus operations. Eligible expenses include food, housing, course materials, technology, health care and child care.

“We’ll be closing out the application period soon and moving on to cutting checks and mailing them to students the week of May 18,” Bray said. “I hope this eases some of the burden our students face, and I’m pleased we’re able to offer assistance to them when they truly need it.”

PCC administrators haven’t finalized plans for spending the remaining funds, but guidelines state the money can be used to help colleges cover costs associated with significant changes to the delivery of instruction due to the coronavirus. In response to the pandemic, PCC shifted traditional classes and student support services to the internet, sent most employees home to telework, canceled extracurricular activities, and closed campus to the public.

PCC President Lawrence Rouse says Pitt’s President’s Leadership Team will meet this month to discuss how to best allocate the funding. The major focus, he said, will be identifying ways to expand and enhance the college’s remote learning programs.

“As long as stay-at-home orders are in place and social distancing is necessary, we’ll be offering a significant number of classes online,” Rouse said. “It’s crucial our students can easily access those courses from wherever they are, along with the many support services we offer, like tutoring, academic advising and personal counseling.”

PCC Vice President of Finance Ricky Brown says Pitt will be prepared to tell the federal government how it used the institutional costs funding, including the amount designated for student reimbursements.

“As defined in the Funding Certification and Agreement for the Institutional Portion of the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, the college will be prepared to report on the use of these funds, demonstrating that PCC has complied with all applicable federal regulations and that the funds were used for the allowable purposes.”

05/18/2020