- The U.S. Department of Education is making the second round of federal relief available for colleges, a total of $6.2 billion that they can use to cover expenses related to the coronavirus, the agency announced Tuesday.
- Colleges and higher education associations have complained the department lagged in releasing an initial $6 billion in federal funding, which colleges could only pass on to students impacted by the virus.
- Institutions are keen to lock down the funding as the pandemic wreaks havoc on their finances.
In the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that President Donald Trump signed in March, Congress earmarked about $14 billion for higher education.
The Ed Department announced earlier this month it would release more than $6 billion of that funding to colleges for students the virus affected. Though the department touted it was "rapidly" delivering the money to colleges that applied for it, few institutions have received it, according to news reports.
The department also has not addressed whether institutions and students would owe taxes on the money. The American Council on Education (ACE), which has lobbied on behalf of dozens of higher ed groups during the health crisis, wrote to Congressional leaders on Tuesday urging them to ensure students won't be taxed on the money they receive from colleges, which is being distributed as emergency grants.
Institutions must report to the department how the grants were calculated and given out to students, and any instructions they gave students about the money.
According to the department, only students eligible for federal financial aid are allowed to receive the grants, which would exclude participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protects immigrant students who came to the U.S. illegally as children.
"The CARES Act makes clear that this taxpayer funded relief fund should be targeted to US citizens, which is consistently echoed throughout the law," department spokesperson Angela Morabito wrote in an email to Education Dive.
The department held a call for higher ed leaders on Tuesday to brief them on the CARES funding, which was closed to the press. Morabito declined to provide a recording of the call.
Colleges must apply for the student aid before they request the money for their own costs, the department said on Tuesday. About half of eligible institutions have applied for the first chunk of funding, it said.
Institutions can reimburse themselves for refunds of room and board costs or money they've spent on technology and internet access for students, according to the agreement colleges must sign to secure the second round of funding. In that document, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos instructed colleges, especially well-resourced schools, to devote as many federal dollars as possible to emergency grants, even the portion not specifically designated for students.
Administrators are prohibited from using the money for salaries, endowments or marketing purposes.