CUNY financial aid grant leaves students confused

CUNYfirst Grant - credit

CUNY

Dani Heba, Copy Editor

CUNY uploaded a message on Nov. 18 to its website informing students of grant money available to them, but a lack of proper communication and clarity left students confused.

The funds were given by the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund III, authorized by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

There was a form available for students to fill out on CUNYfirst, that’s deadline was also on Nov. 18 — the same day most students found out about this grant. Paired with CUNY not immediately sending out the email and the ambiguous wording of the form, students were confused about what to do with it.

The form asked if students would give CUNY permission to use the grant funds to pay tuition and outstanding fee balances on one’s account.

Students did not have to take any action on CUNYfirst in order to receive the money, according to an email sent to student leaders by CUNY Communications and Marketing Director Terrell Merritt.

Instead, students are to get paid via direct deposit or mailed a check if they did not fill out the form. Students who did fill out the form are still receiving the money but in the form of having their debt paid off.

Students who filled out the form by mistake can fill out this form and send it to their college’s bursar office to receive the grant money.

At Baruch College, about a dozen students filled out a Google Form created by The Ticker to share their thoughts and experiences during this chaotic day.

Bianca Belton, a junior majoring in finance, said that she was excited to receive the money, but CUNY could have done a better job at communicating with its students. She found out about the grant through her classmates.

“They could have actually notified students instead of just posting it on CUNYfirst where many students do not look,” Belton said.

Barkat Chowdhury, a junior majoring in economics, was one of the few respondents who found out about the grant via an email sent by Baruch. However, he says that it was not clear what giving permission to CUNY meant.

“I had to get further clarification from group chats and Reddit posts to be fully informed,” Chowdhury said.

In similarity with other students, Chowdhury said that CUNY should send their emails out in a timelier manner to lessen the confusion.

“Send their communications a month or longer in advance so people could get a chance to be properly informed by speaking to those in the financial aid/bursar’s office before making a decision,” Chowdhury wrote when discussing what CUNY could have done better.

Mia Mikki, a sophomore majoring in journalism, found out about the grant through a classmate’s message in one of her group chats, and said she felt “panicked.”

“It was the final day to authorize a signature and I immediately went to check if it applied to me,” Mikki said.

Mikki also reported feeling very confused on her first read through of CUNY’s email, before talking with other students and figuring out what she had to do.

“Emailed us about the grant in a timely fashion and made the wording much more simple,” Mikki said when asked what CUNY could have done better.

Vasileios Michaelides, a junior majoring in international business, found out about CUNY’s grant through a classmate. He wasn’t pleased with the handling of the grant information toward students.

“I felt like it was done behind the student body’s back,” Michaelides said.

Michaelides also expressed confusion regarding what it meant to give CUNY permission to use the funds, and said he had to reread it a few times before fully understanding. He also said that CUNY’s communication about this situation could have been better.

Rachel Manzo, a senior majoring in business communications, found out about CUNY’s grant from her classmates. She acknowledged being surprised and upset about finding out about the grant so late.

“I was surprised when I found out by my fellow classmates and not from the bursar’s office or Baruch administration,” Manzo said. “It was upsetting that no one even knew about the grant.”

She said that she didn’t understand what it meant to give permission to CUNY and said that CUNY should have sent emails and made professors aware of the grant for students.

“SEND EMAILS and have professors be aware of the financial aid grants that are available for students,” Manzo said.

Jared Dawkins, a junior majoring in international business, and Nancy Adjalla, a junior majoring in business communication, reported feeling excited and happy, respectively, about receiving the money, but both also expressed a desire for more funds to be given by CUNY.

Particularly, Adjalla expressed happiness with the funds because the pandemic hit her with financial obstacles. However, she expressed disappointment at only receiving two grants from CUNY since the beginning of the pandemic.

From all the responses, the theme is consistent: students are grateful for receiving the money, but with regard to communication, they want CUNY to step up to the plate and deliver important messages in a clear and timely fashion.

Editor’s Note: Vasileios Michaelides, who was quoted in this story, is a Ticker sports writer.