HSI Status Brings Additional $2.3M in CARES Act Funding to UArizona

a person checking out a computer

The University Libraries' tech lending program has used some of the funding to purchase laptops, Wi-Fi hotspots and data plans that students can borrow free of charge.

Courtesy of University Libraries

The University of Arizona received an additional $2.3 million in federal COVID-19 relief funding, much of which is being used to increase access to technology equipment and restore some student jobs lost early in the pandemic.

The funding is part of the latest CARES Act COVID-19 relief allocation and comes from the U.S. Department of Education, which specifically earmarked funds for minority-serving institutions. UArizona received the funding as a Hispanic-Serving Institution.

The university received $15.4 million from the CARES Act in the spring for student emergency relief, which was fully distributed to students.

"Our designation as a Hispanic-Serving Institution is external confirmation of our commitment to the success of students of color in their pursuit of higher education,” said University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins. "We are very grateful our HSI status has resulted in this additional funding, which will enable us to do even more to ensure our students have the resources they need to continue on their path to a degree."

The one-time relief funding directly supports the mission of minority-serving institutions, which is to advance access and equity for all students, particularly students of color, students from low-income households and first-generation students.

"I appreciate that consideration was given at the federal level knowing that many of the communities served at Hispanic-Serving Institutions have been disproportionately negatively affected by the pandemic," said Marla Franco, assistant vice provost for Hispanic-Serving Institution initiatives. "These additional funds are an important response towards intentionally helping Hispanic-Serving Institutions with their relief and recovery efforts through this pandemic."

Several sources of anonymized student survey data were used to identify students' most pressing needs as a result of the pandemic, Franco said, and $720,000 has been sent to units across campus. Additional plans are being reviewed to determine use of the remaining funds.

The Campus Pantry, which distributes food to members of the university community experiencing food insecurity, received funds to help cover increased expenses incurred this spring for food, staff and personal protective equipment due to the pandemic.

University Libraries' technology lending program, which allows students to borrow laptops, Wi-Fi hotspots and other electronic equipment, received funds to purchase 100 laptops, 100 Wi-Fi hot spots with data plans, and 40 extended data plans for existing hot spots. University Libraries will partner with several student support programs to ensure that students with the highest need are prioritized. The tech lending program associated with UArizona distance learning locations also received funding, which will be used to buy 24 laptops, 24 cases, 40 Wi-Fi hot spots and 40 data plans.

Funding will also be used to restore some student positions lost early in the pandemic and to add hours to jobs that remained. The university lost 33% of its student positions in the first quarter of fiscal year 2021 – more than 2,500 positions – which amounted to about $2.5 million in student payroll.

Many of the university units that employ the most students and faced much of the university's student staffing reduction were auxiliary units, which sustain themselves through income from services or products rather than tuition dollars. Examples of auxiliary units include Housing and Residential Life, Parking & Transportation Services and Arizona Student Unions.

On-campus jobs come with opportunities that can't be found outside the university, said Abra McAndrew, assistant vice president for access, engagement and opportunity.

"When jobs take place on campus, not only does it help students with their financial security – which is a really important part of their ability to be academically successful – but it also provides students the opportunity to build those relationships with staff, faculty and educators," McAndrew said. "They connect students with people who care about them and understand the rhythm of the academic cycle and can accommodate them in the workplace."

Students will likely notice more on-campus job listings when the spring semester begins in January, McAndrew said.

The use of these funds, Franco said, illustrates the impact that the designation can have on benefitting the needs of a broader cross-section of students.

"It's quite unprecedented to receive funding from the U.S. Department of Education as a direct result of the designation, as we typically have to competitively vie for funding," she said. "These relief and recovery funds come at such a critically important time for students."

The university was designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education in 2018 for its success in the enrolling and supporting Hispanic students. To be eligible, an institution of higher education must have an undergraduate student enrollment that is at least 25% Hispanic.