Trump Admin to Distribute Over $6 Billion CARES Act Funds to College, Universities

April 10, 2020 Updated: April 15, 2020

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced Thursday more than $6 billion will be distributed immediately to colleges and universities so that the institutions can provide direct emergency cash grants to their students.

Congress passed two weeks ago a $2.2 trillion aid package bill, known as CARES Act, in an effort to ease the economic stress on Americans amid the pandemic. Of the $14 billion the CARES Act allocated for higher education, $6.3 billion has been made available to colleges and universities to provide cash grants to help students cover expenses related to disruptions to their educations because of the CCP virus outbreak, including course materials, technology, food, housing, health care, and childcare.

The CARES Act funds are available to all types of higher education institutions, including public and private nonprofit four-year universities, community colleges, and for-profits. DeVos maintained that there’s no law that forbids for-profits from receiving aid, after high-ranking Senate Democrats argued in a letter (pdf) that for-profit colleges should not be able to access that money.

michigan stay at home order
A student moves out of her dorm at the University of Michigan on March 17, 2020. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

To receive the funding, institutions need to sign an agreement (pdf) that says they will use the money as intended.

The Department of Education on Thursday also released a detailed list (pdf) about how much money each institution will receive based on a Congress-approved formula, which is weighted toward institutions that enroll more low-income Pell Grant recipients. For example, New Jersey’s Rutgers University, with 30 percent of its student¬†receiving Pell Grants, will be given $54 million.

“What’s best for students is at the center of every decision we make,” said DeVos in a press release. “That’s why we prioritized getting funding out the door quickly to college students who need it most. We don’t want unmet financial needs due to the coronavirus to derail their learning.”

In a letter (pdf) to college and university presidents on Thursday, DeVos said the CARES Act gives institutions freedom to decide how to distribute the funds. But she encouraged the leadership of each institution to prioritize their students with the greatest need, and at the same time “consider establishing a maximum funding threshold for each student to ensure that these funds are distributed as widely as possible.”

Colleges are expected to receive another round of relief checks of $6 billion, but DeVos did not specify when it will happen. DeVos said in a conference call with reporters that her department wanted to move as quickly as possible to help students whose lives and academic plans have been disrupted by the ongoing pandemic.