Dear Graduate Student Community,
Above all, we hope you and your loved ones are safe and well.
Over the course of the last few weeks, the personal and professional lives of our students, staff and faculty have converged, and much of our academic and domestic stability has been upended. We understand that you are experiencing significant anxiety surrounding academic progress, housing, financial aid, food security, and the health and well-being of your communities. We are here to help. My Graduate Division team and colleagues across campus have been working to rapidly address your needs and provide the resources, accommodations, and services we can to alleviate some of your financial and academic concerns related to the COVID-19 crisis.
Below is a high-level summary of academic accommodations and financial support available to UC Berkeley graduate students. For more detailed information, please visit the Graduate Division’s COVID-19 information hub, as updates are being added on a daily basis.
Financial Support + Basic Needs
We are working with campus to streamline the emergency aid process and launch a singular funding application to provide assistance with expenses such as rent, food, health and medical expenses, and technology due to impacts of COVID-19. This new application will be available to undergraduate, graduate, international, and undocumented students. When this streamlined application launches, students will be notified by email. In the meantime, below are the best methods to request emergency support.
Emergency funding is available. Please use it! If you are a graduate student in financial distress, please inform your GSAO and apply for one of the funds below:
- There are a variety of emergency support programs available to graduate students, including: Emergency Loans, Emergency Rental Assistance Program, Food Assistance Program, Housing Security Deposit Program
- Graduate Students who have filed a FAFSA can request a cost of attendance adjustment to receive a grant.
Basic Needs Center
- The Basic Needs Center, including the food pantry, has moved to 103 Sproul Hall. Please visit this Google document for up-to-the-minute information on CalFresh and UC Berkeley food pantry services: tinyurl.com/UCB-BNC-C19
Federal Relief / CARES Act: What to Expect
- In order to provide immediate relief to taxpayers, the Internal Revenue Service will send tax rebate checks to individuals and families that have valid Social Security Numbers. The legislation calls for $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for married joint tax filers. The IRS is using 2019 tax returns to determine eligibility or 2018 returns for those who haven’t filed for 2019 yet. Many UC Berkeley graduate students who filed taxes in 2019/2018 will qualify for these tax rebate checks. Read more information about what to expect.
- The IRS has included updated information on how to receive payments. If you used a tax preparer or owed taxes last year (i.e. did not receive a refund), you may have to update your payment information with the IRS. Visit the “Get My Payment” portal on the IRS website to check the status of your payment.
- The Graduate Division has increased summer funding for graduate students by $600,000. This block grant funding has been given to departments, which will then allocate funding to students.
- We are exploring additional sources of summer funding for students.
- Any graduate student can apply for a short-term spring/summer housing contract by submitting this application form on the Berkeley Housing website. Eligible housing includes single student apartments, family housing, and summer transition housing. Family housing currently carries a wait list, and units are unfurnished. To assist graduate students who may not have summer housing in place, Cal Housing will offer a $200 discount to the first 50 graduate students that accept a summer transition housing contract of at least one month in length.
- We understand that some graduate students who live in campus housing cannot pay their rent right now. Graduate students who do not pay rent to the campus will not be evicted. The campus will work with graduate students who do not pay rent on an individualized basis to come up with a solution that works for them.
Student Parent Assistance
- The Graduate Division will be allocating an additional $200,000 in funding to support COVID-19-related basic needs relief, including funding for graduate student parents.
- Students with dependents are eligible for 64 hours of subsidized back-up care if their child’s school is closed, or their regular caregiver is not available. Students must be pre-registered for the program. Register here. Until May 15, 2020, if care is not available through the back-up care program, you will be offered the option to secure care from within your own personal network (a neighbor, friend, or babysitter) and receive a reimbursement of $100 per day. More details will be provided during the reservation process.
Support for Undocumented Students
- Graduate Division is offering $100 grocery gift cards to undocumented graduate students. To receive one, please complete this Google form.
- Undocumented Community Resource Center services remain open and accessible. Please visit the USP website for information on how to access services.
Support for International Students
- The Berkeley International Office has aggregated frequently asked questions and requested resources related to the COVID-19 crisis on the BIO website. Please reach out to a BIO advisor if you have questions not answered by the FAQ page.
- For one-on-one advising with a BIO advisor, sign in to BIO’s virtual waiting room. Schedule: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. and 1-4 p.m.
- For non-urgent issues, email email@example.com.
The Graduate Division and the Graduate Council have repeatedly asked deans and chairs to be flexible with graduate students regarding coursework expectations, milestone completion, and other academic disruptions due to this crisis. If you need support, please contact your GSAO or HGA. If you cannot resolve your concerns at the departmental level, please contact your academic advisor in the Graduate Division.
- Individual graduate students can change their grading option from letter grade to S/U until the last day of instruction (May 8, 2020). The Academic Senate has temporarily suspended regulations governing S/U grades, giving programs flexibility during Spring 2020.
Exams and Assessments
- All qualifying exams may take place via Zoom or other video conferencing software in Spring, Summer and Fall of 2020.
- For those graduate student courses that hold final exams, instructors have been encouraged to provide alternate final examination methods and expand the timeframe of the examinations.
- Normative Time: The Graduate Division and Graduate Council have approved a blanket one-semester increase in normative time for doctoral students. Contact your Graduate Student Affairs Officer (GSAO) to request this increase.
- Filing Deadlines: We have extended our Spring 2020 dissertation or thesis filing deadline to Friday, May 29, 2020. We will allow all students to file dissertations and theses during the summer, for Summer 2020 degrees, free of charge. The Graduate Division will also allow Plan II master’s students to file for a summer degree in 2020, free of charge, for this year only.
- Milestones, Petitions, and Master’s and Professional Degree Progress:
The Graduate Division will be extremely flexible regarding processes and policies that we control and will work with the Academic Senate and the Office of the President (UCOP) on policies that are beyond our authority. Please contact your GSAO with any requests, and they will communicate with the Graduate Division on your behalf.
- If the technology resources you have available to you do not enable your effective participation in remote instruction or other academic work, visit UC Berkeley’s Laptop and WiFi Hotspot Lending Program page for information on the university’s lending program and access to discounts.
- All registered graduate students now have access to free Zoom Pro accounts. Visit studenttech.berkeley.edu/zoompro to sign up or to switch versions.
- The Student Tech Support Helpdesk is available to assist students with tech-related questions or challenges and continues to be available Monday through Friday by phone at 510-642-HELP and email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Remote support by Zoom is available on a limited basis.
We hope that these academic accommodations and financial support programs help alleviate some anxiety related to the social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. We are working closely with Graduate Student Affairs Officers and other campus offices to monitor and address students’ needs and requests on an ongoing basis. Thank you for all you do for Berkeley.
Take care and be well,
Lisa García Bedolla
Vice Provost for Graduate Studies and
Dean of the Graduate Division