Students concerned about UI rollout of CARES Act funding

Some UI students say they worry the university isn’t providing enough aid to students during the coronavirus pandemic.


Ryan Adams/The Daily Iowan

Photo Illustration by Ryan Adams

Lillian Poulsen, News Reporter

Students are expressing concern about whether the University of Iowa is providing enough funding for students in need. They point to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act’s difficult application process and the university’s lack of student support as the root of the problem.

The UI Office of Financial Aid recently completed distributing $8.1 million in CARES Act relief to students, according to an update provided to the campus community on July 17.

85 percent of the recipients are undergraduate students, 10 percent are professional, and 5 percent are graduate students, according to the update. The UI also reported that a third of the overall recipients are first-generation students, and a third of the undergraduate recipients are also Pell Grant recipients.

But some students say they worry the university isn’t providing enough information for students who need aid during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the primary concerns students have was the difficulty of the application process, UI junior Oscar Rodriguez said. Students don’t understand why the financial aid office couldn’t clearly communicate how much money students could receive, Rodriguez said.

RELATED: CARES Act funding distributed to Iowa arts and culture groups

The UI financial-aid office shared notifications on MyUI to Pell Grant recipients, Director Cindy Seyfer said. To apply for the funding, Seyfer said students had to explain why they need the money and how they would use it.

Rodriguez said requiring questions about why the students need the money created unnecessary barriers, which deterred students from applying.

“I didn’t agree with making the process a little bit more complicated by asking those additional questions,” Rodriguez said. “It’s obvious that if people are applying that they just need the money. They didn’t have to tack on more questions for barriers as people were applying.”

Rodriguez said that some students also weren’t able to apply for the funding because the application was closed when they tried to apply.

The application opened on May 4, as previously reported by The Daily Iowan. According to the UI financial aid office, the application closed June 5.

More than 18,000 students were eligible to apply for the funding, according to the UI financial-aid website. The office received nearly 5,000 applications and 4,724 students received aid, Seyfer said.

“They should have known that there’s going to be a bunch of applicants,” UI sophomore Brandon Graham said. “They should’ve known that a lot of people are struggling right now, and there should have been a much better rollout of letting people apply for aid.”

Seyfer said that students who didn’t receive aid when they applied either got their job back and reached out to the office about no longer needing the money or were incoming freshmen who weren’t eligible for the aid, Seyfer said.

RELATED: University of Iowa students may soon apply for funds from $16 million CARES Act share

Students don’t know where the money the university receives goes, Rodriguez said. He said some students have concerns about the money going to members of the administration instead of students and faculty members.

“As far as I’ve seen it’s ‘the university is struggling’ and it’s like, how are you going to help students that are also struggling?” Rodriguez said. “Students aren’t million-dollar institutions. We are just people trying to get by.”

Rodriguez added that the university should be doing more to make sure students receive more aid. Graham said he recommends the university petition the government for more funding or reallocate money so students receive more aid.

“We’re paying you tens of thousands of dollars every year to go to your institution,” Graham said. “The least you could do is help us when a global pandemic is threatening our ways of life and our financial stability.”