Texas One Stop must better communicate emergency funding changes

Sydney York

In an effort to relieve the financial difficulties many students are enduring due to COVID-19, the federal government passed the CARES Act, which provided emergency funding that was distributed throughout the spring and summer. 

The CARES Act greatly benefitted students by helping them pay for expenses such as housing, food and any other personal or school-related items they needed. 

“I received the CARES Act during the summer, and it helped me immensely during such uncertain times,” accounting junior Camila Valdez said. “With the funding it gave me, I was able to pay my rent.” 

Many students at UT who benefitted from CARES Act funds in the spring or summer have not received the funds again in the fall, even though they are still eligible to benefit from the COVID-19 relief bill. 

Jennifer Love, the director of Texas One Stop for Enrollment Services, said students who received CARES funding in a prior semester may receive funding again, but priority is given to students who have not received funding before. 

“We’re just watching the spending and awarding of those funds to make sure that all of the students, especially our students who have not received the CARES Act before, are taking the opportunity to apply,” Love said.

Although Texas One Stop has valid reasons to prioritize helping students who haven’t received emergency funding before, it is important that the office thoroughly informs students that were depending on CARES Act funding of any changes to its eligibility policies. Texas One Stop should begin to directly inform students receiving emergency financial aid of any changes that may affect students’ eligibility. 

Texas One Stop’s website does indicate that students who have received funds in the past “may be eligible” for more funds based on availability. However, this statement is ambiguous because it implies that students who have received prior awards still have a chance to receive more money if they still meet the other eligibility requirements. 

Texas One Stop should have clearly and proactively communicated its eligibility policies to students via email instead of expecting students to vigilantly check its website and decipher any policy changes. 

“When I did not receive the funding again this semester, I felt confused because I was still eligible for it, and I did not get a notice or reasoning for me not receiving it again,” Valdez said. “I would have appreciated being sent an announcement or an informative email explaining that the Act was only applicable for one semester.” 

UT should avoid marketing the CARES Act as a fund that can potentially help students multiple times if they need it. 

In fact, Love said funding will likely be tight in the spring semester as well, but the Texas One Stop website does not mention this. Important information like this must also be added to the website and directly shared with students who are hoping to receive awards so they can better prepare for any future financial hurdles that may arise.

In the future, Texas One Stop should be more transparent with students receiving emergency funding by sending out a direct, informative email explaining why or why not they will be receiving awards. Failure to do so will only result in more stress for students. 

York is a rhetoric and writing junior from Laredo, Texas.