CSUN Receives More COVID Help Than Any Other California University


A visit to Cal State Northridge Health Center shows how an unprecedented stream of federal dollars for pandemic relief is being spent on campus.

As the pandemic threat persists, an office has been converted into a state-of-the-art, specially ventilated isolation room to test and treat patients potentially infected with COVID-19 or other airborne illnesses. Patients move in and out outdoors, avoiding other areas and reducing the risk of exposure. The examination room cost $ 219,000.

Without federal funds, “we couldn’t have done it. Absolutely not, ”said Jason Wang, senior director of physical facilities management at the university of the health center upgrade.

Cal State Northridge is the sole recipient of the most federal pandemic relief aid of any public or private university in California, with an influx of $ 265 million that funds needs-based scholarships, offsetting massive revenue losses, improving campus health and safety measures and meeting a host of needs, including technology upgrades.

Across California, three waves of relief money are pumping over $ 9.5 billion to public and private colleges and universities, by far the most of any state.

Nearby, a campus warehouse holds stacks of boxes containing masks, wipes, disinfectant dispensers, digital thermometers and plastic dividers for offices. In all buildings on campus, hallway floors are now dotted with large round red stickers urging everyone to stay to the right when walking to minimize face-to-face contact.

All of this will improve safety and alleviate problems as the campus prepares for a partial or full return to in-person classes in the fall, officials said. “We will just be prepared for future health and safety needs, which are inevitable,” said Carmen Chandler, spokesperson for the campus.

Aid formula promotes UHC Northridge

CSUN is the largest recipient of aid because of its large number of enrolled students – 38,815 last fall – and because 54% of its undergraduate students are eligible for Federal Pell Grants for Low Income Students. . Additionally, the university gets additional funding as a federally designated Hispanic institution with a 51% Latino student body. As required by federal law, almost half of the aid will become grants for needy students to offset the costs of living and learning. The school can use some of the rest to make up for massive income losses from the pandemic – at least $ 40 million this year – and to cover reimbursements it has had to give students for housing and living expenses. unused parking.

The aid also funded online education technology, improved ventilation in many campus buildings, improved health facilities, and expanded mental health counseling for students. The university has bought more than $ 1 million worth of plastic office dividers, masks, disinfectants and digital wall thermometers – all intended to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The campus would have suffered “devastating” cuts without the federal money, said Colin Donahue, CSU Northridge’s vice president for administration and finance and its chief financial officer.

“I don’t know how we would have weathered this storm,” he said, noting that no one had predicted that the pandemic shutdown would last for three semesters. “Without these funds, we certainly wouldn’t be able to serve our students appropriately. “

Cash payments to students

Students say they appreciate the help. Some of the most needy are expected to receive what could total $ 2,600 from the first two rounds of federal funding, with more to come from the third round authorized by the US bailout enacted in March. Payments were made automatically on the basis of past income information and did not require new requests.

“I think a lot of our students certainly needed and benefited from it during the coronavirus pandemic. It made a difference, ”said Deion Turner, who just finished his post as vice president of the student government this year.

Many students lost their jobs during the health emergency and struggled with expenses for accommodation and food. The extra help was “really a good thing,” he added.

Turner, a Los Angeles resident who graduated in May, received $ 600 in COVID-19 assistance to cover his final trimester’s books and car payments.

In the first two rounds, totaling about $ 127 million, $ 53.2 million went to scholarships, according toaccounts provided by the campus.

An additional $ 31 million allowed students to reimburse accommodation, meals and parking programs and to compensate for various lost income, including a drop in the amount of tuition fees paid, made worse by declining enrollment in schools. international students during the pandemic. That federal money even helped the university avoid possible defaults on construction bonds for dorms and garages, officials said.

Around $ 14.7 million was spent on improving technology for online education and distance communication, such as better Wi-Fi connections, computers and teaching software for teachers, staff and students.

The sudden shift to remote learning and working “would have been in dire straits” without this new equipment, said Edith Winterhalter, associate vice president for budget and strategic business operations.

The campus decides how to use its most recent credits and will haveabout a year after receiving his last share to spend the funds. The money does not come from Washington in the form of a lump sum payment, but campuses must submit documents to withdraw from their award amounts. After distributing approximately $ 65 million in funding to students, the campus will have approximately $ 73.5 million to spend, or 15% of its operating budget of $ 491 million in 2020-21.

During a recent visit to the campus, most of the expenses were not visible, such as strengthening advice and home technology for teaching. But in 31 campus buildings, major renovations were made to improve ventilation. And many classrooms have portable air filtration units, the size of a window air conditioner, that sit on the floor.

Larry Gordon is a writer for EdSource, a non-profit, non-partisan journalism organization that reports on education in California. EdSource data reporter Daniel J. Willis contributed to this story.

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