$7.1 million in COVID-19 relief grants to help eligible Tri-County Tech students

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PENDLETON, SC (WSPA)–Tri-County Technical College (TCTC) will pay out $7.1 million in COVID-19 relief grants to eligible students over the 2021-2022 academic year.

The funds are a part of the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund III, authorized by the American Rescue Plan.

“This is eligible to all students who are in an eligible program, have completed a FAFSA so that we can determine their eligibility, and are enrolled in the fall and spring semester,” said Melanie Gillespie, Director of Financial Aid at Tri-County Technical College.

College officials said the grants could also go to any new students who register between now and the admission deadline.

“Some students have told us that they’re unsure if they can keep going to school or even enroll for the first time, but the COVID funding has made it possible,” Gillespie said.

TCTC awarded more than $2.1 million in HEERF I funds authorized by the CARES Act, and nearly $3 million in HEERF II funds authorized by the CRRSSA Act last academic year.

“HEERF III is more than doubled than what we received in the first round and second rounds. So, even the two combined together, this is more funding than we have had before,” Gillespie said.

One student said during the pandemic, her life was turned upside down, as she tried to juggle working part-time, while battling health and other hardships as a full-time student.

“There’s some personal stuff that happened very recently to me where I have to now all of a sudden pay rent, and I have to do car insurance, phone bill and all of that,” student Abby Hopkins said.

The second round of federal funding in the spring assisted her with paying rent, other bills, and buy a MacBook Pro needed for her major. Hopkins also still works at Dollar Tree.

“It has definitely helped my college education because I feel like I can focus on school with this grant in my life,” Hopkins said. “All of my funds are taken care of kind of in a sense with that, and a bunch of other stuff I get through the school. Just kind of like lifting a weight off my shoulders, because I wouldn’t be able to afford insurance the way I pay it,” Hopkins said.

According to TCTC, colleges and universities are required to use HEERF funding to provide grants to students for expenses related to disruptions to their education due to COVID-19, including things like tuition, fees, course materials, technology, as well as food, housing, health care and childcare.

“We ask them to complete the FAFSA to determine their eligibility for the funds because you are required by the federal government to give it to the neediest students first,” Gillespie said.

Hopkins is now eligible for the funds this year too.

The college’s press release reads, “For the Fall 2021 semester, individuals who are Federal Pell Grant recipients will receive a one-time grant of $1,250. Those who are not Federal Pell Grant recipients will receive a one-time grant of either $1,000 or $400 depending on the student’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC), an index number colleges use to determine how much financial aid a student is eligible to receive based on their income, assets, and benefits.”

“So students are excited because they don’t have to get rid of their educational plans. They’re able to come to school,” Gillespie said.

Hopkins said the funding has been a game changer.

“The funding has definitely changed my life for sure. I just want to stress that. It’s a really amazing thing that the school is doing,” Hopkins said. “There’s people in better situations, people in worst situations that can afford this stuff through this grant, if they get it, and like it changes lives.”

Tri-County’s admission deadline for the fall 2021 semester is August 12. Classes start on August 23.To apply or see how you can receive help, click here or call 864-646-1550.

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