This year, Raritan Valley Community College in New Jersey made a move it had considered but never pulled off for lack of money. Its students, like those at most community colleges, are up against a host of life challenges, among them being able to afford food and housing. They usually need more hands-on help than those at four-year schools.
So starting in March, Raritan used part of the $25 million it had received from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, or HEERF, which Congress passed as part of broader pandemic aid, to hire two financial coaches and set up an eight-person call center to address the fire hose of questions pouring in from current and prospective students.
Some of the queries were straightforward: how to enroll, the price of tuition, how to register for classes. Others weren’t: I lost my job, so my income last year doesn’t reflect what I’m making this year; can you adjust my financial aid? What if I can’t pay my tuition balance right away?