UGA distributes funds to help students during pandemic

“The procedure is very involved and sometimes a little, well, tedious,

Marcie Berrong is the sort of person who handles things without much fuss. So, when the University of Georgia’s office of Bursar & Treasury Services was put in charge of disbursing nearly $20 million to UGA students through the CARES Act Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, Berrong, who is the assistant manager of Student Account Services, put her head down and got to it.

“The procedure is very involved and sometimes a little, well, tedious,” Berrong said with a laugh. “But I was focused on getting the money to students as quickly as possible, because I know these times are trying for everyone.”

The funding arrived in two waves, one last spring and another round this February through HEER II. More than 18,000 UGA students received funds. Because the awards are based on financial information, eligible students could receive assistance twice. Those whose financial information was no longer correct due to COVID could appeal to receive funding or additional funding.

The process to allocate such a large sum was new and complex. So was the task Berrong and her colleagues in Student Account Services tackled last spring, when the university pivoted to online operations. Prorated refunds of nearly $24 million were distributed to students for services like meal plans and housing that they weren’t able to use. This job was complicated by the fact that since many students were no longer on campus, contact information was sometimes out of date and direct deposits had to be set up.

For the past year, Berrong has used two of her greatest skills – thoroughness and attention to detail – at full strength. “Just making sure the little pieces fit together,” as she put it. “I feel like detail is important in what we do. The littlest things, if you’re not careful, can kind of cause a mess.”

“Everybody working together as a team makes it all possible,” she is careful to note. “I think that it’s amazing how such a large institution has come together and come up with ways to make it all work out.”

Perhaps Berrong’s calm also comes from having been in the job over 30 years and knowing how much more difficult this could have been if things were still done how they used to be. “When I started working at UGA, we didn’t have a student account system. We had paper checks sent to us from the lenders, and the students would come to pick up their checks from our office. Each student would have to present a picture ID and a class schedule to get their check,” she said. “Since then, we have come a long way, and I’m proud to say, now we can better serve our customers. I consider myself very fortunate to be a part of it all these years.”

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