The U.S. Department of Education began to implement the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act by setting up application and certification processes for institutions to access the emergency student grant portion of their allocation on April 9 and the institutional portion on April 21.
The April 9 announcement also included a document that provided the specific dollar amount allocated to each institution, at least half of which each recipient would need to disburse to students to help them meet the added costs students face as a result of the public health crisis. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos provided broad guidelines in the cover letter accompanying the guidance.
While the April 9 framework for the student emergency grant portion of CARES funds was broad and delegated much discretion to institutions, the series of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) that the department issued on April 21 on student eligibility for emergency grants has caused great alarm for the impediments they impose on the disbursement of funds to needy students. Specifically, to prevent institutions from providing grants to DACA recipients and international students, the department indicated that only Title IV-eligible students could qualify for assistance under the CARES Act. This interpretation, tying eligibility to Section 484 of the Higher Education Act, effectively limits allocation of funds to students who have a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) on file with the department. AASCU released a statement expressing disappointment on the exclusion of DACA/Dreamer students from CARES Act-related assistance.
AASCU and other higher education groups are actively working to urge the department to reconsider its interpretation. AASCU held two webinars last week to respond to member questions about CARES grants and will continue to monitor federal guidance and seek modifications to assist member institutions.
In addition to engaging the department, AASCU is actively working to ensure Congress provides additional assistance to institutions, as the full impact of the public health and economic crises on colleges begins to register with lawmakers. Beyond asking for a new supplemental appropriation of nearly $47 billion, the higher education community is requesting waivers from existing rules that hamper colleges’ ability to manage operations under these unusual circumstances, access to federally subsidized credit for institutions, emergency changes to tax laws, and technical corrections on recently enacted legislation that exclude the public sector.
Title IX Rule
As we have previously reported, the higher education community continues to wait for the release of the final Title IX rule by the U.S. Department of Education. We believe the rule will be published at any moment and will include an extensive preamble and complex rule language that will complicate its implementation even in the best of circumstances. The rule would have to be implemented by all campuses by Aug. 14, 2020.
AASCU will join the broader higher education community in its request to Congress to delay the release or implementation of non-COVID-19-related regulatory or reporting requirements until the national state of emergency is lifted.