Despite email and text notifications about the possibility of receiving a $250 to $1,000 grant made possible by the American Rescue Plan (ARP), only 53 percent of eligible students requested funding. The institutional funding that allowed the College to offer these grants came as a part of multiple packages received from the federal government, which have decreased the financial toll the pandemic has taken on the College.
Beyond fundamentally altering the academic and student experience, COVID-19 has negatively affected the finances of the College. Expenses associated with emergency grant aid to eligible students as well as the transition to remote learning cost the College over $8 million by last July. Record endowment returns and prudent accounting have left Bowdoin in a steady financial state, but the College has also been assisted by $3,426,666 in federal funds that it accepted to assist students and support the transition to remote learning.
The bulk of this sum has been devoted to student financial support. As of September 30, the most recent reporting date, the College has disbursed $1,316,000 to students in the form of emergency aid grants and is in the process of disbursing hundreds of thousands of dollars more.
Bowdoin received funding through three separate rounds of emergency federal funding in April 2020, January 2021 and May 2021. Each round of funding required that the majority of received funds be directly devoted to emergency student aid payments. For the first two rounds of funding, payments were granted to federal Title-IV eligible students. However, for the third round of funding through the ARP, the College was able to open up emergency aid grants to all students, regardless of financial need. Bowdoin used a sliding scale to grant between $250 and $1,000 to each student, dependent on their need.
“The last round of relief funds, the American Rescue Plan, expanded the eligibility requirements as well as increasing the amount of money provided as relief funding for students,” Senior Vice President and Dean of Admissions Claudia Marroquin ’06 wrote in an email to the Orient.
The Student Aid Office announced this funding program to all students via a campus email and an automated text message on October 8. Any student was eligible to request funding by filling out a form that asked for just their student ID number. Even for students not strictly eligible under federal filing guidelines, the College rolled out a funding program of its own to ensure that every student in need would be able to claim emergency grant aid.
However, not all of the intended recipients received this message as it was accidentally redirected to the spam folders of many students. By the November 5 deadline, only 53 percent of eligible students had requested funding, Marroquin wrote.
“Students have been notified of their eligibility for relief funds through email and through text message reminders,” Marroquin wrote. “We started using the text message reminders as an additional form of communication to do our due diligence to notify students of their eligibility and the deadlines.”
The College has also received $826,285 in institutional funding to support the transition to remote learning as well as health and safety initiatives. (Although the College was eligible to receive $1,476,721 in institutional funding through the ARP in May 2021, it declined this allotment.) The largest portion of this sum—$559,250—was spent on “reimbursement for partial cost of providing iPads for all students to support remote learning,” according to the College’s year-old CARES Act Quarterly Budget report.