The Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships (OFAS) sent out emergency relief money earlier this month in the form of the CARES Grant to qualifying students in response to the COVID-19 crisis. This relief money helps aid-eligible students to pay for educational expenses related to the disruption of campus operations such as food, housing, course materials, technology, health care, and child care. While many students benefited from these grants, UCSB still has not adjusted its tuition costs for the remote quarter.
Saúl Quiroz, the Director of OFAS, told The Bottom Line (TBL) that OFAS understands the far-reaching impact that the pandemic has had on students. He mentioned that OFAS consulted with various campus and systemwide stakeholders such as the University of California Student Association (UCSA), the Basic Needs leadership, and the Graduate Division in determining award amounts for students. Particular attention was given when determining the award amounts for those in vulnerable populations like students affected by Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA), former foster youth, student parents, and homeless youth.
In an interview with TBL, Tamari Dzotsenidze, a fourth-year political science major, said that “every little bit helps. I know my professors are working really hard to do a good job online, and it’s not always that simple to adjust tuition.” Lea Toubian, a third-year political science and environmental studies double major, echoed Dzotsenidze’s statement saying, “I understand there are limitations and that there are still costs the campus has to pay regardless of who is physically there.”
However, both agreed that more could be done to help alleviate the financial stress of the current — and future — quarters. Toubian admitted, “the costs of attending a prestigious four-year university are a burden for many students but it’s a sacrifice many take because it’s worth it. If we wanted to attend online school, there are tons of cheaper options out there.”
Dzotsenidze also mentioned that charging fees for campus facilities that are not in use, such as the library or printing labs is inappropriate. “While in the past I may have checked out a book from the library, now it is a requirement to either buy the book or just gamble on not reading it and sacrifice that portion of your grade. Printing things is also similarly extremely difficult when you have no access to equipment to do so.”
Award amounts, which were deposited into students’ billing accounts, ranging from $650 to $1,700. Toubian said, “Considering the significant drop in the quality of education and the lack of access to facilities, I don’t think that the CARES grant sufficiently made up for [the full cost of tuition]. It was better than nothing and definitely a nice surprise, but I know they could have done better.”
Dzotsenidze agreed, noting the biggest issue that UCSB and local officials must address is the housing crisis in Isla Vista. Due to the high rents and run-down conditions of numerous apartments, many students choose to live with upwards of ten people, making self-quarantine difficult. She said, “I do not think that any school or government official can say they are concerned about students’ wellbeing while ignoring the high burden of housing in Isla Vista.”
When asked about future quarters — should the university remain physically closed — Quiroz explained that “unless additional funding is included in a subsequent stimulus bill, [the CARES Grant] should be considered one-time funding. However, we will continue to work with advocacy groups, government relations colleagues and financial aid associations to highlight the critical need for continued financial support for our students.”
For those who felt they need additional financial support, OFAS allowed parents and students to submit an online appeal if their income had changed as a result of COVID-19. Quiroz encouraged students to submit an appeal if they have been impacted, as it will be used to determine aid eligibility for the upcoming academic year.
Please note, OFAS is no longer accepting online appeals for financial support.