Diné College distributing COVID-19 relief checks to students
Diné College students picked up their emergency aid CARES Act checks last week at three campus sites in Arizona and New Mexico. The checks arrived under a $1.3 million grant secured via the U.S. Dept. of Education’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act).
On Wednesday, May 13, 300 checks were distributed to students at the Tsaile campus. On May 14, checks were issued at Shiprock (New Mexico) campus, and May 15, at the Tuba City campus. Students who did not pick up their checks will receive them by mail. The check amounts ranged from $474 to $697.
“The coronavirus pandemic disrupted normal student life and students who met the grant’s eligibility criteria will be issued a relief fund to assist them,” Diné College President Charles M. Roessel said. “These times are trying for all of us and we are doing everything possible to help our students.”
“Of the 1,225 students enrolled since the passing of the CARES Act on March 27, 1,034 students met the grant’s eligibility criteria,” Velveena Davis, Executive Director of the Office of Institutional Planning and Reporting and Incident Commander, said. “Unfortunately, 191 students did not meet the criteria, but we will continue looking for funds to assist all of our students.” The grant was secured by the college’s Office of Institutional Planning and Reporting (OIPR).
The college handed out close to 300 checks Wednesday as dozens of students lined up for drive-thru distribution outside the Tsaile campus gymnasium. Davis oversaw employees who assisted with the drive-thru process and made sure proper Centers for Disease Control (CDC) protocols were in place: maintaining a 6-feet distance, wearing facial masks and gloves, manning sanitation stations, and communicating to students the rules of safety. The checks required a signature by each student who were told to bring their own pens to sign and have a state photo ID ready for verification purposes.
“It’s good to see the results of our hard work when students arrived and received their funds,” Davis said. “Most were surprised about the additional support we can give them, some shared their stories of struggle while others cried and were overly appreciative of the relief funds. It makes all the hard work well worth the effort, seeing how much we can help our students and the college to make this all possible.”
Davis submitted the grant application on behalf of Diné College and collaborated with numerous campus departments. Eligibility criteria stipulated that those who were enrolled following March 17 and returned from Spring Break with an active enrollment (full-time or part-time), degree seeking, and Title IV eligibility Davis said. She said those who did not qualify for the grant were dual credit students, non-degree seeking, students whose courses were exclusively online, and those who did not meet Title IV eligibility, such as not being a U.S. citizen or not having a U.S. social security number, those not registered under Selective Service (male students), students who had already earned a bachelor’s degree and seeking a second, those employed and attending college, as well as those who have an income of $30,000 annually, or those who have a default on a federal student loan.
The CARES Act amount (Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund) granted to Diné College was $1,346,931. Fifty percent of the relief funds are pre-allocated by the grant to go directly to students, while the remaining 50 percent is allocated to the institution.