Penn State to award $50M in student COVID-19 relief grants for fall semester

Students who qualify for a first-round fall 2021 American Rescue Plan grant will receive notification of their award via their Penn State email address, along with instructions on how to accept or decline the aid in LionPATH. An application-based second round of funding will soon open to support students in need who were not offered a first-round grant. Credit: Patrick Mansell / Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State will award $50 million in emergency relief grants to help students enrolled during the fall 2021 semester cover any component of their cost of attendance or other emergency expenses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The grants are part of $76.2 million allocated to Penn State for emergency student financial aid from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) III, as authorized by the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act of 2021.

In line with how previous federal COVID-19 relief funds have been awarded, Penn State will disburse the fall grants through two rounds of funding. In the first round, the University will award grants to more than 31,000 students with demonstrated exceptional financial need, as determined by data from the 2021-22 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Grant recipients will include undergraduate, graduate, law and medical students at all Penn State campuses, including Penn State World Campus students. Based on their level of need, students will be offered a grant of $1,000, $1,500 or $1,800, with approximately 19,000 Pell Grant-eligible students receiving the maximum $1,800 award.

After the first round concludes, Penn State will award all remaining ARP funds allocated for the fall semester, anticipated to be at least $2 million, during an application-based second round of funding. The second-round awards, valued at $1,000 each, will support students with exceptional financial need who did not file or were not eligible to file a FAFSA, or who did not otherwise qualify for a grant in the initial round. Under U.S. Department of Education guidelines, all students, including non-U.S. citizens, will be eligible to apply for these federal dollars once the application opens. Full details about how to apply for a second-round grant will be announced in the coming weeks.   

Students who qualify for a first-round grant will soon receive notification of their award via their Penn State email account from the Office of Student Aid, along with instructions on how to accept or decline the aid in LionPATH. The subject line on the email will be “American Rescue Plan Fall Award.” The grant can be used to cover any component of a student’s cost of attendance or for emergency costs that arise due to COVID-19, including tuition, food, housing, health care (including mental health care), or child care, provided that the expense was incurred on or after the start of the national COVID-19 emergency on March 13, 2020.

When accepting their grant, students will be required to affirm that the money will be used for eligible expenses in accordance with the American Rescue Plan. Students will be able to request a lower grant amount if their personal circumstances do not require the full award offer. Students also will be able to choose if they would like the money to be refunded to them directly, applied to an outstanding balance on their student account for fall 2021, or a combination of the two options.

Students who are awarded a first-round grant must act to accept it by Nov. 15, as all unclaimed funds will be awarded to other students during the second-round application process.

Following the fall awards, Penn State is planning to allocate all remaining ARP student funds — projected to be approximately $18 million — during the spring 2022 semester to meet anticipated ongoing student need due to the pandemic. Penn State received its ARP allocation from the U.S. Department of Education in May and has one year to disburse the funds.

Previously, Penn State awarded ARP grants totaling more than $8 million to over 8,000 students enrolled during the summer 2021 semester. Penn State also awarded $27.5 million in student emergency grants in 2020 from its HEERF I allocation, as authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. In spring 2021, Penn State awarded an additional $27.5 million in relief grants to students via HEERF II, as authorized by the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA).

Answers to frequently asked questions about the fall 2021 American Rescue Plan student emergency grants, as well as the University’s Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund reporting information, can be found on Penn State’s official coronavirus information website.

Last Updated October 14, 2021