Committee Democrats to DeVos: Stop Unlawfully Withholding Emergency Aid from Students
“Institutions across the country have spent far too much time attempting to understand and comply with the Department’s unauthorized and inconsistent guidance on student eligibility for CARES Act funding…”
WASHINGTON – In a letter to Secretary DeVos, 19 Committee Democrats expressed strong opposition to the Education Department’s repeated efforts to implement unauthorized restrictions on students’ access to higher education emergency aid provided under the CARES Act.
The CARES Act provided more than $14 billion in emergency aid to institutions of higher education and required half of that funding to be used for emergency grants to students. Despite the law including no restrictions on student eligibility, the Department issued an interim final rule that excludes students who don’t meet the eligibility requirements for federal financial aid programs under the Higher Education Act, including undocumented and international students, those with a federal loan in default, and other vulnerable students. The rule also causes disproportionate harm to populations of students less likely to have completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), including student veterans, students who attend low-cost institutions like community colleges, and students who self-finance their education through full- or part-time work. The Department is now seeking input on a new information collection to implement these cruel and unauthorized restrictions.
In the letter, Members note that the Department could have avoided placing additional burden on institutions and students, both already overburdened as a result of COVID-19, by simply following congressional intent and allowing institutions broad discretion in distributing emergency aid to all students.
“Institutions across the country have spent far too much time attempting to understand and comply with the Department’s unauthorized and inconsistent guidance on student eligibility for CARES Act funding. Their time would have been far better spent assisting students who are struggling with the impact of COVID-19 and ensuring that safe and enriching postsecondary opportunities are available,” the Members wrote. “The Department’s continued insistence on enforcing these restrictions will further harm vulnerable students and make it harder for institutions to provide effective support.”
Last month, congressional education leaders sent a letter to Secretary DeVos requesting the Department rescind its interim final rule.
To read the full text of the letter, click here.
Democratic Press Office, 202-226-0853
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