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Montana State providing emergency federal grants to students affected by pandemic

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BOZEMAN – Qualifying students at Montana State University will begin receiving federal aid payments this week to help cover eligible expenses incurred from disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic this spring. Additionally, alumni and friends have already given more than $100,000 to students in emergency grants.

The federal stimulus funds are part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES. MSU received $5.3 million for direct student aid grants. The additional private funds were raised through the MSU Alumni Foundation as part of emergency student support called Bobcat Relief.

Following guidance from the U.S. Department of Education, MSU focused funding on students with the highest financial need based on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form, commonly known to students and their parents as the FAFSA. Pell grant-eligible students have the highest demonstrated financial need in meeting their college costs through the FAFSA process.

“Using Pell-eligibility and other need-based indicators from the FAFSA was an objective, pre-existing way for the university to quickly get dollars to those students who need help,” said Waded Cruzado, president of Montana State University.

The university is dispersing approximately $300 to $900 per student to more than 7,400 students — undergraduate and graduate — depending their demonstrated financial need through their FAFSA data. The federal payments could be used to cover expenses such as food, housing, course materials, technology, health care or childcare.

Eligible students were sent an email May 13 with a link to a short application to confirm their eligibility. The university will begin making payments to students May 26. Students are encouraged to respond as soon as possible but will have until June 30 to submit the simple application.

“We know the pandemic has been tough on students, as many of them held jobs in fields that were shut down this spring,” Cruzado said. “They have unpaid bills, and hopefully this federal aid will provide them some relief.

“I also want to thank the many alumni, friends, faculty and that have given to the Bobcat Relief fund through the MSU Alumni Foundation. To date, that fund has helped more than 200 students,” Cruzado said. “We’ve had nearly 200 extraordinary donors come forward to help our students. It’s a testament to the strength of the Bobcat family.”

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