Aug. 10, 2020 — A total of 539 students were able to stay on track with their studies, thanks to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Summer Grant program at CSU Channel Islands (CSUCI).

Transfer Student Success Activity Director Veronica Montoya, who headed the grant program, was thrilled to see so many lives impacted by the $586,350 worth of funding that went toward the students’ education. Montoya said the value was not only in the class and what that student will eventually contribute to society, but also the psychological boost of staying on track, even after the global crisis had disrupted their lives

“From the students’ perspective, they were committing to a class,” Montoya said. “They were making an academic investment of a five-week class which was so important, especially after last semester’s transition to virtual learning off campus.”

The COVID pandemic and the economic, practical and health circumstances that came with it changed the lives of thousands of CSUCI students. Many students lost jobs or had family members who lost their jobs or got sick, and some wondered if their family and financial burdens would prevent them from continuing in college.

For some students like Psychology major Monica Sifuentes, 26, of Oxnard, the pandemic severely compromised her plans to graduate by the end of the fall semester. As the first in her family to attend college, she had plenty of emotional support at home, but little financial support. Monica Sifuentes

“I was initially going to take summer class to ease my course load in the fall, but due to the COVID pandemic, I lost one of my part-time jobs and didn’t have the money to pay for it,” Sifuentes said.

If she wanted to graduate, Sifuentes was facing an 18-unit load in the fall. She had hoped to take a challenging neuroscience class over the summer to take some of the burden off herself in the fall. It was going to be hard enough managing a full course load working online with her mother down the hall doing webinars for her own job.

“I’m one of those people who needs absolute quiet to concentrate,” Sifuentes said.

Then, in June, CSUCI launched the “CARES Summer Grant Program,” to provide tuition for eligible students interested in taking summer classes. The funds come from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was enacted by the U.S. Department of Education to aid institutions of higher learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sifuentes signed up immediately and is now on track to successfully complete her neuroscience course and go on to tackle a reasonable course load in the fall.

The program was so popular, Montoya said, that enrollment the second summer session was way up from last year. The summer session that began in July with 825 students enrolled compared with 493 students last year

When she was in high school, Sifuentes never thought she would attend college. Now, she is planning to apply to graduate school at the University of Southern California, the University of San Diego, and Harvard and Yale University, too, because, why not? The sky’s the limit.

“So I can at least get a nice rejection letter on fancy paper,” she joked.

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