Moraine Valley Community College is working to eliminate students’ financial and technological barriers through the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to a recent grant.

The college has received $954,857 from Illinois Governor JB Pritzker through the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund. The grant is being used to support efforts to enroll and retain low income, underrepresented and first-generation students who might otherwise not enroll or return to school due to the pandemic.

“Our goal is to use GEER funds to close digital equity gaps that exist for these vulnerable student populations,” said Dr. JoAnn Jenkins, dean of Student Success. “We are collecting student record data from the spring and summer 2020 semesters and conducting intrusive outreach to students who will be most helped by these funds.”

The grant money is supporting costs associated with: purchasing technology hardware and software, debt forgiveness, support and services needed for remote learning, development and adoption of curriculum, digital outreach and more.

The first phase of debt forgiveness already is underway. The college created application criteria and announced it to students through various college communication channels. Since implementation, 59 students have been relieved of about $70,000 worth of debt owed to the college from the spring and summer 2020 semesters.

Moraine Valley has led other student support efforts such as mentoring and tutoring, books and course materials distribution for the fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters, and purchasing laptops and hotspots to give to students who didn’t have the technology needed for remote learning.

“We don’t want this pandemic to further derail our students’ education any more than it already has, so we will use GEER however we can by law to support them. Their success may depend on it,” Jenkins said.

Grant money totaling $108.5 million was given to the state through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by Congress last March. Pritzker directed $46 million to public universities and community colleges in Illinois. Moraine Valley’s allocation was based on enrollment and other factors.