The COVID-19 pandemic has been financially disastrous for millions of college students. In response, the federal government has made emergency funding available to colleges and universities through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF).
But for colleges without limited emergency aid distribution infrastructure, getting millions of dollars in HEERF funding to students was a significant challenge.
San Diego Mesa Community College recognized significant need among its students but lacked the staff and expertise to assess aid applications and distribute funds in compliance with federal guidelines.
San Diego Mesa, which had previously partnered with Edquity to distribute emergency aid, knew that the platform offered the capabilities they needed to deliver millions of dollars in HEERF funding.
Eager to help as many students as possible, San Diego Mesa also brought fellow SDCCD schools San Diego Miramar Community College and San Diego City College on board. Across the three schools, over 30,000 students were eligible to apply for $1,000 emergency grants.
To distribute funds as quickly as possible, Edquity worked with the schools to create a streamlined process.
When Edquity came on board, the colleges “still had a high amount of HEERF funding available,” noted Senior Partner Success Manager Melanie Butron. “Based on the application volume we received, they noticed that they had enough funds to cover all the students, so they decided to award all students that applied. This worked because they needed to get the funding out in a specific amount of time and understood that if a student takes the time to complete an application, they need some type of funding.”
The Application and Distribution Process
Since February 2021, San Diego Mesa has used the Edquity platform to distribute aid to 7,458 students, with a process that takes less than 48 hours from application to receipt of aid.
For San Diego Mesa, one key benefit was the data the Edquity platform provides. As part of the application process, students are asked to identify their areas of need—information that the colleges can then use when deciding how to focus their outreach and assistance efforts.
“We were able to target emails to students based on [application] information,” explained Joanna Aleman, basic needs coordinator at San Diego Mesa. “If students were saying childcare was a challenge, we could say ‘here are some child care resources for you.’ We could create that community while we were remote by letting our students know we saw what information they gave us and tailoring emails to them based on their needs.”
Thanks to Edquity’s simplified process, San Diego Mesa staff were also able to reach out to groups of students who were eligible for HEERF funding but who did not have FAFSA forms on file, including foster youth, CalWORKS participants, disabled students, and veterans.
Another key benefit was the speed at which students were able to apply for and receive funding. On average, students spent 4.3 minutes completing the application, received a decision in 8 hours, and were able to claim funds in 20 hours. For Ashanti Hands, Vice President for Student Services at San Diego Mesa, Edquity’s platform offered desperately-needed assistance fast, without burdening already-stretched support staff. “We really value and appreciate the quickness of being able to connect students with funds.”
With over $7.4 million distributed so far at San Diego Mesa alone—and a new application round now open—the partnership’s impact continues to grow.
Edquity’s research-backed technology provides colleges and universities with an equitable, compliant aid application and distribution platform. Learn more about Edquity’s capabilities and partnership opportunities at edquity.co.