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Perkins: COVID relief funds help BCC students
Students grateful for financial aid

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Barton Community College received additional federal funding in 2020 and 2021. At Tuesday’s BCC Board of Trustees study session, Director of Financial Aid Myrna Perkins described how the college handled the portion of Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds (HEERF) that went directly to students, totaling almost $3.4 million.

Meeting the federal guidelines for processing, disbursing and reconciling the money was “very time-consuming,” Perkins said. However, it proved to be “a valuable source of funding that assisted students at a critical time.”

As of May 4, Barton has awarded 2,220 block grants to full- and part-time students and covered past-due balances of an additional 176 students for a total amount of more than $2 million.

The remaining HEERF allocation is $393,677 and must be spent by June 30, 2023, but the college hopes to be done by June 30 of this year.

“We were going at a clip to use 100% (by then) but at mid-March we started getting suspicious applications,” Perkins said. People were applying that weren’t really students but wanted the money. “We slowed way down at that point but we’re still awarding funds as long as we can confirm a valid student.”

Under the federal rules, funds go directly to students. That means they aren’t paid to accounts due unless the student chooses to use them that way. By the third round of funding, Barton was able to require students to fill out an application that included a question: “Do you want this to apply to your account balance?”

More than half of the students said “yes,” resulting in more than $1 million being applied to account balances, she said. “So that helped us and the students.”

Trustee Gary Burke commended Perkins on developing the application question that returned more money to the college.

“Amazing how much that little nudge changed the action of the students,” he said.

Even if students opted to have the money paid directly to them, many turned around and used the funds to pay their balances, Perkins said.

This funding helped some students stay in school while facing financial burdens brought on by the pandemic, she said. “Students were genuinely grateful for these funds. This was a godsend for a lot of students.”

In other business:

• The trustees reviewed contracts for head coaches, management staff and administrators. Final approval will be at the May 24 board meeting.

• Vice President Angie Maddy and others described the Student Success Academy. With support from the Higher Learning Commission, the academy is a three-year project that looks are structures that support students’ achievement of their higher learning goals.

• Plans were made for Friday’s commencement ceremony. So far, 183 students have picked up their caps and gowns so they can walk across the stage.

• Trustees wrapped up the meeting with a tour of the Fine Arts programming areas on campus. They have been taking monthly tours of different parts of the campus to review the condition of facilities.