Cal Lutheran to receive additional $5 million in COVID-19 relief

Marcos Pino, Reporter

The second round of COVID-19 relief, announced by the Department of Education on Jan. 14, allocates another $5,298,324 to California Lutheran University, with $1,725,688 going to financial aid grants for students and $3,573,636 to cover institutional costs.

“There have been two rounds of federal higher education emergency relief funds (HEERF) stimulus dollars awarded to Cal Lutheran as a result of COVID-19,” Karen Davis, vice president of Administration and Finance, said in an email interview. “The U.S. Department of Education announced the allocation of a second round of stimulus funding, HEERF II (CRRSAA funds) in January 2021.”

Cal Lutheran, as a private institution, typically does not receive any federal or state funding for its operating costs and depends primarily on student-generated revenue. This means it relies on revenue from tuition, room, board and fees from all of its academic programs.

The university saw student-generated revenue drop in 2020, with residence halls below half capacity and lower enrollment numbers. These results of the pandemic’s economic impact allowed Cal Lutheran to access federal relief through the CARES Act in Spring 2020.

“The impact of the COVID-19 restrictions required the University to shift the learning to a virtual environment and drastically reduce the number of students that reside in the residential halls and utilize dining venues,” Davis said.

Around $20 million was slashed from Cal Lutheran’s annual budget to mitigate the revenue shortfall. These cuts came in part from a round of employee furloughs and layoffs. Davis said the 2020-21 budget fell from an original $120 million to slightly less than $100 million.

 “We are hopeful that the distribution of the vaccines and the reduction in regional COVID case rates will permit resumption of indoor classes and student activities on campus in the fall term,” Davis said.

While the second round of relief dollars was announced in January, “the Department of Education administration changes have caused delays impacting the ability to draw the funds to date,” Davis said.

Because of the delays in the withdrawal of funds, students will have to wait until the university makes applications available for grants.

“The student grant aid will be paid to eligible students who may voluntarily elect to direct the funds to be paid to their student account,” Davis said.

The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators said on their website that the next round of relief funds will not focus on student grants as much as the previous, but will still provide some aid to the student grant fund.