Midnight deadline looms for Fall Fest $500 student aid

Some City College students experience difficulties filling out applications on tight timeline

A City College student opens the Edquity app

A City College student opens the Edquity app on their phone. Photo by Kathy Archibald/City Times Media

Update (Dec. 16, 6:15 p.m.): This story has been updated to include a photograph of Fall Fest and a screenshot from the Edquity website.

With Fall Fest 2021 in the rearview mirror, some San Diego City College students have reported difficulties with the process of obtaining the promised $500 in aid, with a deadline to apply for the aid looming at midnight tonight. 

In an informal poll of students, City Times Media heard from two students who experienced difficulties downloading the Edquity app and one student who was immediately denied by the platform with no explanation. 

Students will face another deadline to claim the funds within 11 days of the funds becoming available, according to an email from the San Diego Community College District Student Services Department.

Edquity is the platform used by SDCCD to distribute Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds, “to assist students who are considering putting their education on hold due to a financial emergency,” according to the SDCCD website

Over 700 students registered for Fall Fest, City College Vice President of Student Services Marciano Perez said at the event.

“That was far exceeding what we thought we were going to get,” Perez said. “This is our opportunity to really engage students with the campus.”

Students visiting tents at Schwartz Plaza during Fall Fest
City College students visit various tents at the Fall Fest and Study Jam event Dec. 8. Photo by Kathy Archibald/City Times Media

Students who registered for and attended last week’s Fall Fest event should have received a follow-up email from the SDCCD Student Services Department earlier this week, requiring steps to be completed before midnight tonight.

The email stated that, “by participating in Fall Fest you will receive a $500 grant to help continue your studies at San Diego City College. To claim your award, all you need to do is complete the easy steps listed below:

  1. Go to the Apple App Store or Google Play and download the Edquity App or apply online at http://app.edquity.co/
  2. Fill out the San Diego City Fall Fest application.”

Students must apply by Dec. 16 at 11:59 p.m. and will receive notification that funds are available by Dec. 17. They will then have 11 days to claim the funds, the email stated.

As part of the application process on the app, the Edquity website stated, “these funds are meant to support students who experience an unexpected financial emergency that could lead to dropping out.”

According to the Edquity website, these funds do not require repayment, will not impact financial aid, and that no written responses, references or receipts are required, also stating, “we won’t ask you for government documentation.”

Also verified during the application process on the website or app is that the student is currently enrolled for fall and attended the Fall Fest and Study Jam.

The student is then asked to affirm this statement, “I am facing a financial emergency that affects my ability to be safe, housed, and healthy and may cause me to drop out of college.”

Screenshot of Edquity website
If students do not affirm a statement of need during the application process on the Edquity app or website, this alert is shown asking the student to reread the statement to ensure they are not facing a financial emergency that may cause them to drop out of City College. Edquity website screenshot

The statement of need was not mentioned in the Fall Fest advertising or the email, although the Edquity website describes the funding as “emergency funds.”

It is unclear why at least one student received a denial message, as minimal information is requested during the process to apply for the $500 student aid.

In an article published by Inside Higher Ed, an online publication focused on colleges and universities, journalist Emma Whitford noted pitfalls associated with the Edquity app.

In the article, “App’s Private Aid Algorithm Promises Fast Cash,” Whitford describes the drawbacks of how the algorithm determines eligibility.

“It’s difficult to evaluate potential biases when an algorithm is kept private,” Robert Smith, a senior research fellow at University College London who specializes in artificial intelligence and bias in algorithmic systems, told Whitford.

Whitford added Smith encourages companies to be as transparent as possible without giving away proprietary secrets, adhere to a set of third-party ethics guidelines, and have a process in place to re-evaluate their methods should bias arise.

Whitford also said colleges have to decide if the need for speed is worth making financial aid decisions with an algorithm they don’t control.

Requests this week for additional information to City College Public Information Officer Cesar Gumapas have not been answered.

The email from student services refers questions to the Edquity app at [email protected].

If you want to share your experience with COVID-related financial aid, send an email to City Times or leave us a voice message below.