Students at New Jersey colleges and other higher-learning institutions will be able to apply for emergency financial aid grants to help cover the costs associated with campus disruptions.

The grant money — available to students of two- and four-year colleges, as well as technical schools, trade schools and seminaries — is part of a $323,080,779 to institutions of higher learning in New Jersey under the federal $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

According to a statement from U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker Sunday heralding the awards, half of that money will be available to students directly as grants. It'll pay for course materials, food, health care, technology, housing, and other eligible costs, the senators said.

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It's part of $14 billion overall awarded through CARES nationwide, to help colleges and universities mitigate their costs after shutdowns related to the novel coronavirus.

In early March, New Jersey colleges and universities began shutting down campus operations in part or in whole, transitioning to online learning in place of in-person classes — many originally planning closures of just a few weeks. Eventually, under an executive order from Gov. Phil Murphy, they were formally ordered closed for in-person instruction. It's not yet clear when they'll allowed to reopen.

Many have already announced new plans for graduation — such as Bergen Community College, site one of the state's FEMA-backed drive-through coronavirus testing centers, which said this weekend it will conduct a "virtual" ceremony online.

Some colleges have already begun issuing partial refunds for room and board, and other related expenses.

According to the federal Department of Education, grant awards were made based on an enrollment formula. Secretary Betsy DeVos, in a letter announcing the awards, said each institution would have "significant discretion on how to award this emergency assistance to students."

"This means that each institution may develop its own system and process for determining how to allocate these funds, which may include distributing the funds to all students or only to students who demonstrate significant need," DeVos wrote.

She encouraged schools to prioritize students with the greatest need, but also consider a "maximum funding threshold" for each student.

She also asked that institutions that find they don't have an urgent need for funds consider donating their awards to other schools.

“Now more than ever, students and their families across New Jersey need our help weathering the economic storm caused by COVID-19,” Menendez said in the statement he and Booker released. “This funding will ensure students receive the assistance they need and that our colleges and universities can continue operating during this crisis."

The senators pledged to fight for further funding.

Aaron Fichtner, president of the New Jersey Council of Community Colleges, in the statement from the senators said the funding would help tens of thousands of New Jersey community college students.

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