U.S. Department of Education awards Southwest Tennessee Community College $2.6M in Coronavirus emergency relief funds

For more information, contact: Diana Fedinec, Director of Public Relations and Media, (901) 333-4247 or dfedinec@southwest.tn.edu.

(Memphis, Tenn.)  The United States Department of Education has awarded Southwest Tennessee Community College $2,673,526 in emergency relief. The grant is part of the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) Supplemental Support under the American Rescue Plan (SSARP) program that supports institutions of higher education with the greatest unmet needs related to the Coronavirus pandemic. SSARP funding supplements HEERF funding that has been awarded to the College since the onset of the pandemic.  

U.S. Congressman Steve Cohen announced the grant award July 16 as part of the federal government’s continued efforts to assist higher education institutions impacted by the pandemic. Along with Southwest, Baptist Memorial College of Health Sciences received a grant of $43,244. “Higher education has taken a hit from the pandemic and its institutions need help. I am pleased to announce this assistance to these important Memphis institutions.” Cohen said. 

“We are grateful to Congressman Cohen for his support and thank the Department of Education for continuing to invest in our students’ success,” Tracy D. Hall, president of Southwest Tennessee Community College, said. “The pandemic hit our students hard, inflicting life changes and challenges that disrupted the academic journeys of at least 1 in 4 of them,” Hall added. “Our goal is to blaze a path for students who stopped out to return to college and to help those students who have returned or have persisted throughout the pandemic to keep moving forward to a credential and a rewarding career.”

Since the pandemic erupted in March 2020, Southwest has experienced a 30 percent decline in student enrollment. The enrollment decrease has left the college with a $10 million deficit. HEERF funding guidelines require fifty percent of the funding to be disbursed as emergency financial aid grants to students who demonstrate exceptional financial need and additional expenses due to  Covid-19. The other half of funds may be used to offset college financial expenses and revenue losses associated with COVID-19. Southwest anticipates using this portion of the relief funding to address revenue shortfalls and expenses associated with the pandemic. 

Southwest Chief Financial Officer Jeannie Smith says funds will be allocated to the largest number of students impacted by COVID-19. Following Department of Education’s guidelines.  “Pell-eligible students will receive priority funding and non-Pell eligible students will be considered based on the College’s criteria,” Smith said. 

Southwest students enrolled on or after March 13, 2020 who meet additional college criteria are eligible to receive this emergency assistance.  Southwest will notify potential students and invite them to complete a short survey to determine eligibility. “We are very thankful to be able to use these funds to help students pay expenses associated with tuition, course materials, technology, health care, childcare, rent, food, or other emergency costs associated with COVID-19,” Smith said.

To date, Southwest has been awarded $56,220, 045 in HEERF funding. The SSARP grant award will continue through the Spring 2023 term.

For more information on Southwest’s HEERF funding and student payment allocation visit, https://www.southwest.tn.edu/coronavirus/cares-act.php. For information about the College, visit www.southwest.tn.edu