Prexy's Pasture

Students cross Prexy’s Pasture in the center of the University of Wyoming campus in the spring of 2017.

Gov. Mark Gordon announced Friday that he will provide $20 million in CARES Act funding to pay for living expenses of University of Wyoming students.

$30 million in CARES Act funding has been allocated for the living expenses of students at community colleges, as well as technical and private schools. The financial assistance is intended to cover expenses other than tuition and fees, including housing and meals for students attending the University of Wyoming, the state’s community colleges, private and technical colleges.

The announcement comes as UW is expecting a 20% percent drop in enrollment this fall. Neil Theobald, senior vice president of administration, has said that most students who are opting not to return to school this fall have cited financial constraints as their primary reason for not enrolling in classes.

“In this challenging time, it could not be more important that we invest in Wyoming’s future by investing in our college students,” Gordon said in a Friday news release. “Students who pause their college education often never return to campus. This is an opportunity to help ensure Wyoming students are able to continue pursuing their educational goals.”

To receive funding from the grant, students must be U.S. citizens who are either current or new students at UW, one of Wyoming’s community colleges or any private or technical college located in Wyoming.

Full-time students will receive funding towards housing and meals at each institution for the fall semester, while part-time students will receive a prorated funding amount according to the number of enrolled credit hours. The financial assistance will be distributed as “last-dollar-in” financial aid, after other merit and need-based aid is applied, including scholarships and grants.

“Basically this comes in after other scholarships. This is specifically for non-tuition costs like housing and food,” UW spokesperson Chad Baldwin told the Boomerang.

Full-time students will receive $3,250 for the fall semester, regardless of their state of residence, including students at the undergraduate and graduate level. For part-time students, the funding will be prorated according to the number of enrolled hours and all funding will be distributed in fall 2020.

All current and new UW degree-seeking students are eligible. The deadline for new students to apply for admission to UW and secure this additional funding for the fall 2020 semester is Friday, Aug. 21. Students who are already enrolled and qualify for CARES Wyoming College Grant Program funding must apply for these funds on or before Tuesday, Dec. 1.

The university is setting up an online interactive tool for students to check if they are eligible to receive funding. Beginning Monday, , full details and application information will be available at www.uwyo.edu/cares.

“This is a great opportunity for students. We’re kind of hoping some of the students who were on the fence about coming this fall, they’ve got a real financial incentive to do it now,” Baldwin said.

In a guest column published by the Laramie Boomerang earlier this week, Wyoming’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow raised concerns about a draft bill proposed by House Speaker Steve Harshman, R-Casper, over what she called “a handout.”

“Dangling the offer of free college with federal CARES money is not the right message or strategy for that money or our state. It is all too easy in contemporary politics for politicians to offer free everything, we can do better than that in Wyoming,” Balow wrote.

Baldwin told the Boomerang that this grant differs from the plan sponsored by Harshman, in that this grant doesn’t go specifically towards tuition and fees, instead being allocated to expenses associated with room and board.

“This plan will help sustain and even grow Wyoming’s talented workforce, critical to the economic future we need after the current financial difficulties,” UW President Ed Seidel said in a Friday news release. “Postsecondary certificate and degree attainment is one of the most critical factors that will assist in the robust and timely economic recovery of Wyoming after the COVID-19 health emergency is over or adequately mitigated.”

Earlier this week, Gordon also announced that he will provide an additional $7.5 million in CARES Act funding to provide grants to Wyoming adults between the ages of 25-64 to enroll at UW.

To be eligible for those grants, recipients must be “unemployed or underemployed” due to the impacts of COVID-19. Qualified UW students who enroll in the fall 2020 semester will receive up to $2,500 for tuition and fees from that $7.5 million sum. More details will be available Monday at www.uwyo.edu/trailblazer.

“Starting on a new path in life takes determination. Taking the first step into a classroom can be the hardest, but UW is dedicated to providing top-level educational opportunities to people in all stages of life,” Seidel said in a press release. “We appreciate the governor’s support of this program to help lift the educational attainment of nontraditional-age students across Wyoming.”

UW will host a virtual town-hall meeting Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. to explain the new financial aid opportunities for the fall 2020 semester.

The session will air on both WyoCast and YouTube. Links to both streaming options can be found at https://wyolinks.uwyo.edu/townhallaug11.

Seidel and others will give a presentation on the both of Gordon’s grant programs for traditional and non-traditional students.

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