Pitt to distribute more than $15 million to students from federal COVID-19 aid


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Chancellor Patrick Gallagher discussed University initiatives at Wednesday afternoon’s Senate Council meeting.

By Rebecca Johnson, News Editor

Pitt will distribute more than $15 million directly to student financial aid from federal COVID-19 funds, the University announced in a Thursday morning press release.

The federal Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act — which was passed in late December — allocated $30.6 million to Pitt, with $10.6 million mandated to go toward direct student support. In light of the “immense financial burden students and their families are facing” Pitt decided to place an additional $4.7 million of CRRSAA funds to students, reaching $15.3 million in direct student aid in total.

Chancellor Patrick Gallagher discussed this latest round of federal relief funds — which will go to about 15,200 undergraduate and graduate students — at Wednesday afternoon’s Senate Council meeting. Gallagher and other University officials also addressed Pitt’s uncertain budget outlook and COVID-19 on campus at the meeting.

According to the press release, students are eligible for funds if they filed a 2020-21 Free Application for Federal Student Aid by Feb. 18, demonstrated “significant financial need” and meet requirements to receive federal Title IV financial aid.

Gallagher said Pitt is working to make sure the funds are distributed “quickly” and “equitably” to all eligible students.

Students who are eligible for a CRRSAA grant should receive an email notification. After going through the necessary steps on PittPAY, a refund should be deposited into a student’s bank account two to three business days after the transaction appears on the student account.

Provost Ann Cudd said increasing the direct student aid portion of the CRRSAA funding is “just the right thing to do.”

“During these challenging days, Pitt’s ability to provide CRRSAA grants to our undergraduate and graduate students is just one more way we can support them in their educational journeys,” Cudd said. “The University’s decision to increase the student aid portion of funding allows us to provide grants to even more students.”

Gallagher said while this round of funding isn’t going to fund graduate and professional students’ summer stipends, Pitt is “monitoring this issue” and hopes to use funds from the third stimulus package for grad students. Graduate union organizers have criticized Pitt’s lack of a no-questions-asked funding extension amid the pandemic.

“For our graduate and professional students, we do anticipate there will be additional financial needs among some groups,” Gallagher said. “For example those reliant on stipends for summer expenses, and while it’s a little early for this round to identify those impacts in a way that we could use for distribution, we are monitoring this issue and hoping to use the third stimulus package or institutional support to address those needs.”

Gallagher added that he encourages students to seek funds from other locations including Pitt’s Student Emergency Assistance Fund and the International Student Emergency Assistance Fund.

Pitt provided $10.6 million in federally funded emergency financial aid grants to about 11,000 students in April through the CARES Act. Gallagher said Pitt spent the rest of the $21.3 million in funding it received toward other pandemic-related costs such as room and board refunds as well as costs to outfit the University for Flex@Pitt.

Tyler Bickford, the chair of the budget policies committee, proposed a resolution concerning Pitt’s Salary Increase Policy, which governs salaries for faculty outside the School of Medicine and establishes specific targets for salaries at the Pittsburgh campus. The resolution asks that the provost and chancellor take action to comply with the policy, which sets a goal that salaries are at or above the median of those at Association of American Universities member schools. This resolution passed at last week’s Faculty Assembly meeting.

“What we’re trying to do is say salary sets out clear targets, we’re constantly not in compliance with them and the parts of the University that do make detailed, specific budgeting decisions should prioritize this and make a plan to get back in compliance with these targets,” Bickford said.

Gallagher said while he was abstaining from voting on the resolution, he “fully supports” it. He said the abstention was a “technicality” because the resolution would come to him in the future but comparatively low salaries are a “chronic problem” at Pitt.

“Even though I’m abstaining I really think this is one of the most important things we can do at the University for our faculty and for our staff, for all employees,” Gallagher said. “These principles don’t mean anything if we don’t put together the systems to make it happen.”

Cudd also abstained from the vote for the same reason as Gallagher, but added that she “[appreciates] the work that went into [the resolution]” and endorsed the policy.

The policy passed with 92% in favor and 8% abstentions.

Gallagher also said Pitt is likely to be used as “leverage” in the state’s budget cycle in an “uncertain” year amid the pandemic. He added that it is important that the Pitt community show up for Pitt Day in Harrisburg in March.

“The state has borne a lot of the brunt of the pandemic and the economic slowdown and other expenses obviously federal assistance for the states will play a very critical role,” Gallagher said. “I do believe it will be very important for Pitt to show up. We have a lot of new lawmakers who really don’t understand the state-related system, and the fact that their appropriation is providing lower-cost tuition for Pennsylvania students.”