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Friday, January 15, 2021

US Universities receive billions in funding for higher education

 The U.S. Education Department on Thursday made available the $21.2 billion in help to higher education included in the coronavirus relief legislation Congress and President Trump approved in December, but undocumented students could be left out of getting help through emergency student grants again.

Meanwhile, billions more in aid could be on the way. President-elect Joe Biden on Thursday also released a summary of the $1.9 trillion relief package he is planning to propose upon taking office, including another $35 billion in help for colleges and universities.

“The president-elect’s plan will ensure colleges have critical resources to implement public health protocols, execute distance learning plans, and provide emergency grants to students in need,” said a fact sheet of the proposal obtained by Inside Higher Ed. “This $35 billion in funding will be directed to public institutions, including community colleges, as well as public and private Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other minority-serving Institutions,” said the document marked “confidential.” The document did not mention most private colleges and universities.

This summary said also that the proposal “will provide millions of students up to an additional $1,700 in financial assistance from their college.”

As for the latest round of approved coronavirus relief, it will allow more flexibility on how colleges and universities can spend the money than in last spring’s CARES Act, and allows for more students to be eligible to receive emergency student grants. It was unclear if undocumented students are again being left out of getting help like last time, higher education lobbyists said. But Justin Draeger, president of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, and Terry Hartle, the American Council on Education’s senior vice president for government relations, said their analysis of guidances released by the department is that undocumented students are ineligible for receiving student grants, as in the CARES Act.

Drager called on Biden to make it clear these students can get the help when he takes office next week.

Former education secretary Betsy DeVos, in a move blasted by higher education leaders, denied CARES Act grants from being able to go to those who are ineligible for federal student aid. According to an FAQ released by the Education Department, that order does not apply to this latest round of money.

The $21.2 billion COVID-19 relief to higher ed institutions represents only a sliver of the $120 billion associations representing colleges and universities had requested. However, according to figures released by the department that listed what each institution would receive, millions of dollars in aid will be heading to institutions struggling with the financial fallout of the pandemic. Topping the list are Arizona State University, which is receiving $112.9 million, then $110.3 million headed to Miami Dade College, and $88.8 million going to the University of Central Florida.

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