Big Sandy Community and Technical College received nearly $2 million in federal funding, with some of it set to help students this week, and in one day after launch, students had already requested about one-third of the funds available to help them.
Jimmy Wright, BSCTC chief student affairs officer and registrar, told members of the college's board of directors on Tuesday, May 12, that through the federal CARES Act, BSCTC received $1.8 million to help the college and students with financial issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
He explained that the funds were divided, with $904,887 available to help students and $904,886 available to help the college, which also received an additional $88,700 because of a Title III grant it gets for programs that help low income students.
The funding is open to current students who have experienced hardships caused by campus disruptions that were created by the pandemic. To qualify, students must have completed a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FASFA, and attended BSCTC from March 13 through June 30.
"So, it affects any class that was an on-campus class that moved to an online environment, but it must, it must be part of the spring and summer session for students to apply for it," Wright said. "It does not currently extend into the fall."
The funding is geared to help students with costs associated with housing, childcare, medical care, course materials, technology, extended program lengths needed to accommodate clinical and labs, and food insecurity, caused by the shutdown of the college's food pantries.
Wright explained that the funding could help students buy computers, internet or software upgrades required for online classes, as well as pay rent and mortgage, pay utilities or buy food. He said funds are also available for travel, food, or other expenses students will incur if they have to extend their programs because the pandemic caused closures of facilities that offer clinicals and labs required in some classes. He said funds for child care, medial care and other problems associated with the pandemic are also available to students.
"This actually was just launched yesterday," Wright said to the board on May 12. "Dr. (Sherry) Zylka sent an email to 1,627 students that were deemed eligible for this program ... As of this morning, we have currently 183 students requesting $227,491. One third of the student allotment in one day. We don't know for sure if they will all be approved, but that shows you the magnitude of the needs of our students in this current situation that we're in."
He said no students have yet requested funds for healthcare or medical expenses related to the pandemic, and officials are seeing requests for technology needs and other issues.
"So, the college's entire cabinet came together and we developed the criteria of what it looks like to make a request. We put a committee together ... All 16 colleges are following the exact same criteria that we are looking at, certain laptops, for example. We don't want a student to make a request for a $200 laptop that we know will not be sufficient in the fall. So, we are making some encouraging remarks to the students, but at the end of the day, the federal guidelines say that we cannot sway the students' decisions. We just have to find ways to support their needs," he said. "We have $904,000 that we need to find a way to get in the hands of the students to make them capable of continuing through the summer, encourage them to look toward the fall and make them tech savvy."
He said the funds are available on a first-come, first-served basis, emphasizing that all applications will be considered.
"We're going to do everything in our power to stretch those dollars across as many students as possible, while meeting the requests of those students," Wright said.
The funds are not available to students who are enrolled in dual credit classes at the college or to immigrants attending the college via DACA, or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
To apply, students must fill out an application online at, bigsandy.kctcs.edu. It's available under the "CARES Grant" link on the college's website.