Congressional Education Leaders to DeVos: Stop Robbing Vulnerable Students of Emergency Aid

WASHINGTON – In a letter to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVoscongressional education leaders expressed deep concern about the Department’s interim final rule to prevent millions of students from getting the emergency relief Congress provided under the CARES Act

The letter was sent by Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-VA), House Committee on Education and Labor, Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA), Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Health, and Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), House Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, Committee on Appropriations. 

The CARES Act, passed on March 27, allocated more than $14 billion in emergency aid to institutions, half of which was intended to provide direct emergency financial aid to students. On April 21, the Department released guidance establishing arbitrary and unauthorized restrictions that target some of the most vulnerable students, including those who have defaulted on federal loans, undocumented students, and other groups of students who are among the most likely to need help.

In addition to restricting access to aid for vulnerable students, the Department’s guidance shifted on more than one occasion, forcing institutions to delay the distribution of emergency funds. 

“While the Department has taken the position that emergency financial aid grants to students are limited to those eligible to participate in title IV programs … the legal basis and rationale put forth in support of this position are fatally flawed.  The CARES Act does not impose any eligibility restrictions on students,” the Members wrote.

“Further, limiting eligibility to title IV eligible students denies aid to students in need who are facing significant financial challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Department should immediately rescind both its unauthorized guidance and this IFR and allow institutions of higher education maximum flexibility in distributing emergency aid as intended by Congress.” 

In a survey conducted by the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, 92 percent of financial aid administrators indicated that the Department’s confusing guidance delayed institutions’ ability to disburse emergency grants to students.

To read the full text of the letter, click here


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