Ball State Board of Trustees reviews COVID-19 federal funding

<p>Ball State President Geoffrey Mearns stands June 4, 2020, at Muncie City Hall. Mearns announced everyone must wear masks indoors on campus via email Aug. 4. <strong>Jacob Musselman, DN File</strong></p>

Ball State President Geoffrey Mearns stands June 4, 2020, at Muncie City Hall. Mearns announced everyone must wear masks indoors on campus via email Aug. 4. Jacob Musselman, DN File

Ball State’s Board of Trustees met virtually Feb. 5, 2021 and discussed the state of the university’s budget.

Vice President for Business Affairs Alan Finn said Ball State will receive $22.5 million from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA), which former President Donald Trump signed Dec. 27, 2020.

The CRRSAA states universities must spend at least as much money on direct aid to students as they did with CARES Act funds, which Finn said would equal a minimum of $7.6 million in direct aid to students. The remaining $14.9 million can be used for university expenses related to COVID-19, including tests, personal protective equipment and payment for contact tracers.

“We are still awaiting more specific guidance from the Department of Education about how those funds can be used,” he said.

Finn said the university hasn’t received CRRSAA funds yet, but he hopes to grant students direct relief faster than CARES Act relief. Instead of requiring students to demonstrate COVID-19 expenses individually through an application, the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships will determine which groups of students are eligible for direct relief through FAFSA applications.

The board also discussed COVID-19 mitigation measures and semester schedules for summer and fall 2021.

Vice President of Student Affairs Ro-Anne Royer Engle said the university’s pre-arrival testing requirement for students taking at least one on-campus class in the spring 2021 semester had a 98 percent compliance rate. Royer Engle said the COVID-19 positivity rate from those tests was 2.4 percent, compared to more than a 10 percent positivity rate in the state of Indiana.

“So far, we have avoided the anticipated surge that many campuses see in the first two weeks of students returning to campus,” she said.

Royer Engle also said the university will begin offering rapid-result antigen tests Feb. 9 at Worthen Arena for asymptomatic students and staff, which was announced in an email yesterday. Students and staff can receive antigen tests every Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday beginning next week.

Ball State nursing students will administer the rapid-result tests through a Passport Health partnership. Open Door Health Services will continue to offer COVID-19 lab tests Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Provost Susana Rivera-Mills presented the planned schedules for the summer and fall 2021 semesters, with the respective start dates of May 17 and Aug. 23.

“As far as fall is concerned, we continue to gather information [and] look forward to having additional guidance from the CDC and the state,” Rivera-Mills said. “Right now, we are not anticipating a change in our calendar for summer or fall.”

For the tentatively scheduled spring 2021 commencement ceremony on May 8, President Geoffrey Mearns said he is talking with event staff about potentially hosting small in-person ceremonies over the course of a few days.

“I think it is very unlikely that we would be able to have a single large commencement ceremony like we would typically have in May,” Mearns said. “We’re looking at the alternatives that we’ve seen other institutions do, which is a series of shorter and smaller ceremonies conducted over a day or two.”

The board ended its meeting with Mearns celebrating the success of the Ball State football team with Athletic Director Beth Goetz and head football coach Mike Neu.

“I just want to say thank you to the Board of Trustees [and] President Mearns, thank you to Beth [Goetz] just for allowing us the opportunity to play this year,” Neu said. “I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for everything that you’ve done for us.”

Contact Grace McCormick with comments at grmccormick@bsu.edu or on Twitter @graceMc564

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