On March 27, 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law. Among other things, the CARES Act created the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF). Section 18004(c) of the CARES Act requires each recipient college to use no less than fifty percent of the total funds received to provide emergency financial aid grants to students for expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to coronavirus (including eligible expenses under a student’s cost of attendance such as food, housing, course materials, technology, health care, and child care). Though colleges have some level of discretion as to who receives individual grants, and the amount of each grant, the U.S. Department of Education has provided guidance indicating specific minimum eligibility requirements, including that the student be eligible for federal financial aid under Title IV of the Higher Education Act and that they incurred eligible expenses.

Wheaton College signed the certification of agreement required to participate in the program, with $669,257 allocated to the college for the student portion of the HEERF fund. As part of the process to distribute these funds, Wheaton College established a Student Relief Fund to support students from the Spring 2020 semester who incurred certain eligible expenses resulting from the disruption of campus operations due to the crisis. For students who were eligible for HEERF grants, they received them via direct deposit or paper check. For students who were impacted similarly, but who were not Title IV eligible, they were distributed grants from other funding sources that support the institutional Student Relief Fund (Student Government Association and donations from the greater Wheaton community).

In order to be eligible for a grant from either funding source, students had to complete the college’s online application, and be determined to be eligible for a grant from one of the two funding sources. Emails were sent on May 5 and again on May 12,  2020, to all potentially eligible students, explaining the Student Relief Fund, and included a link to the online application. The application process was also posted on the college’s webpage re: COVID-19 information. For students to be eligible for distribution from the HEERF funding source, the following criteria was established to determine eligibility:

  • Completed application.
  • Certified that they incurred eligible expenses.
  • Met the requirements under the CARES Act to be an eligible student to receive HEERF grant.
    • Current student in Spring 2020 (verified through College Registrar)
    • Title IV eligible (completed FAFSA)
    • Incurred eligible expenses (certified by student on application for grant)

Once a student was determined to be eligible for a grant from the HEERF funding source, the amount was determined, using a sliding scale based on assessment of the student’s financial resources, using data obtained by the college during the student’s most recent financial aid application. The sliding scale is weighted to award larger grants to students with less financial means. All eligible students were guaranteed a minimum grant amount of $300. In early June, the college began sending grants to eligible students. Communicated on this page is more detailed information on the program and the number of students awarded, while still protecting individual students’ privacy.


Updated Reporting Information

Reporting Information 6/19/20:
Description Amount
Total Number of Title IV Eligible Students in Spring 2020 semester 1298
Total Amount Wheaton Received under the HEERF Student Portion $669,257
Total Amount Distributed to Students as of the Most Recent Report Date $669,257
Total Number of Students Awarded Any Wheaton Student Relief Grant 591
Total Number of Students Awarded from HEERF Funding Source 503


Final Report, October 30, 2020: Quarterly Budget and Expenditure Reporting under CARES ACT Sections 18004(a)(1) Institutional Portion, 18004(a)(2), and 18004(a)(3) (pdf): $669,257 of the original $669,257 institutional portion was spent on campus safety and operations, specifically for COVID-19 testing.