(WACO, Texas) – The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund provides Texas State Technical College with the means to help full- and part-time students who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nearly $4.9 million in funding has been received by TSTC for expenses related to the disruption of campus operations because of the coronavirus, including eligible expenses under a student’s cost of attendance.
So far, TSTC has awarded $3 million in CARES Act funds to 2,659 students statewide.
“We’re committed to cultivating a ‘culture of caring’ at TSTC,” said Adele Clinton, TSTC’s executive director of Retention Services. “We’ll do whatever it takes to help our students succeed.”
The funding can help cover education-related expenses impacted by the global pandemic, including internet access, course materials, health care, child care, and housing for those who have had to vacate their dorms.
“The most common request that we’ve received is for assistance with paying important bills and for groceries,” Clinton said. “Many of our students have had their lives disrupted by this pandemic and have had real problems making ends meet.”
Additionally, TSTC has its own emergency aid funds to assist students who may not qualify for CARES Act funding.
“Students who do not meet the criteria for CARES Act funding may be eligible to receive other funds from the college,” said Marcus Crook, TSTC’s executive director of Enrollment Management.
He explained how the college helps students through the application process.
“Complete applications are sent to a TSTC Advocacy and Resource Center (ARC) coach, who then contacts the student within 72 hours,” Crook said. “The ARC coach identifies what local resources the student may qualify for, identifies what the student’s actual need is, and approves the requested amount or makes adjustments. The TSTC Financial Aid office then reviews the request and determines if the student is eligible for CARES Act funding or if another source of funds is more appropriate for the request.”
Marissa Hansucker, who is currently studying at TSTC’s Waco campus to become an occupational health and safety technician, credits the available funding for helping her finish the semester. The 25-year-old utilized the assistance she received to help with utilities, which allowed her to continue studying remotely.
“The funding helped me keep my internet access,” she said. “More than likely we would not have been able to continue living where we are, and I would not have been able to continue school had I not received this help.”
Although the process to apply for CARES Act funding requires an overview of a student’s financial circumstances, overall it was a simple one for Hansucker.
“It was extremely easy to apply,” she said.
“TSTC’s emergency aid application is quick and easy to use,” Clinton reiterated. “A student can apply online or by contacting their enrollment coach. The application only takes about two minutes to fill out.”
Aside from the financial assistance provided by the CARES Act, TSTC has additional resources to make sure that students are on track to complete their education.
“Our Advocacy and Resource Center team not only contacts each student who applies, but they provide them with referrals to local, state and national resources to further help their situations,” Clinton said. “Our students are reached out to periodically to make sure they are doing all right. I think that shows who we are at TSTC. We take care of each other like family.”
TSTC’s culture of caring to provide students with the resources they need extends beyond CARES Act funding. Beth Wooten, CEO of The TSTC Foundation, said that while the foundation serves as the fundraising arm of the institution, the legacies built by students are what is most inspiring.
“A lot of our students have financial hardships,” she said. “We want to make sure that our students understand that we are here to help them. Our ultimate goal is for them to graduate and get a great-paying job. We don’t want anything to get in the way of that.”
Vice Chancellor and Chief Student Services Officer Rick Herrera knows that students face hardships outside of their academic careers — circumstances that The TSTC Foundation aims to help them overcome.
“There are many life challenges that a student will encounter while enrolled in college,” Herrera said. “TSTC has adopted a culture of caring initiative where we are expending resources to help students through non-school-related life challenges. We have food pantries at many of our locations, Helping Hands scholarships for non-school-related expenses, and counseling services for those difficult times when talking to a caring person could help. Many of these services are possible with the help of The TSTC Foundation.”
Ultimately the drive to ensure student success is what fuels those who help make students’ dreams comes true.
“We work at The TSTC Foundation because we know that we can help change lives,” Wooten said. “We see it firsthand every day in the students we are able to help.”
Herrera emphasized that TSTC will explore every resource at its disposal to help its students succeed.
“We may not be able to break down every single barrier, but it won’t be because we didn’t exhaust every option available to us.”
To learn more about TSTC and the CARES Act and Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, visit https://tstc.edu/student_life/caresact.