Unexpected $5,000 windfall surprises students

The Office of Financial Aid is located in the CASS building. Photo by Chloe Dinnard

In the midst of “balance due” alerts, late fees and chaos, students at Florida A&M have been anxious about their debts being cleared.

Unexpectedly, FAMU this week posted a helpful lump sum of money to partially relieve the stress — the FAMU ARP HBCU Student Affairs scholarship — for every student.

“It comes from the COVID-19 Relief Fund. We gave everyone $5,000 that applies to the fall and the spring,” Malik Gary, an Office of Financial Aid employee, said. “We also provided aid last year and the federal government granted [the university] additional funding that will be applied to [students’] tuition and fees.”

During this year’s spring commencement ceremony, FAMU President Larry Robinson announced that $16 million went toward paying off students’ debt. It was allocated from the more than $100 million of federal aid that FAMU received to help with financial hardships experienced by the students and the university.

With increased fees and extra money left over, the stipend will be distributed in two increments of $2,500 that will apply to the current and upcoming semesters.

Damara Monroe, a second year political science major, is one of many students who were elated when learning of the good news. “I was excited to hear about the $5,000 because I didn’t apply for as many scholarships as I should have,” she said. “I worked all summer in order to have funds for the school year, so, extra grants are a huge blessing.”

Monroe finances her living expenses through a stipend that she receives at the completion of her work where she teaches eighth-grade English and language arts to students for a non-profit organization, Breakthrough Miami, in her hometown.

In addition to a personal paycheck, the organization provides a scholarship that goes directly to her tuition.

Isaiah Smith, a senior journalism student who transferred to FAMU from Hillsborough Community College, is grateful for the extra money and how it can help others.

“It seems more beneficial for people who don’t receive financial aid,” Smith said. “But It’s still great that it applies to everyone regardless of how they pay for school.”

With Pell grants covering the majority of his balance and loans taking care of the rest, he plans to save the money and put it toward bills, if he needs to.

Not all students plan to use the scholarship as a refund and instead plan to use it for living expenses.

Kaleb Floyd, is a third year business administration student, does not receive financial assistance, although he applies for Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). “I pay for school out of pocket,” Floyd said. He has a remaining balance of $16. “The grant pretty much paid off my tuition,” he said.

As everyone else looks forward to receiving the $5,000 payments, seniors who are expected to graduate this fall wonder if they will receive the second disbursement.