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DeVos pushes universities with large endowments to forgo coronavirus aid

DeVos pushes universities with large endowments to forgo coronavirus aid
© Greg Nash

Education Secretary Betsy DeVosElizabeth (Betsy) Dee DeVosHouse committee subpoenas Education Department staff over for-profit colleges DeVos says it isn't Department of Education's job to track schools' coronavirus reopening plans Judge calls Devos student loan forgiveness process 'disturbingly Kafkaesque' MORE on Wednesday encouraged colleges and universities considered to be "elite, wealthy institutions" to forgo the aid provided to them in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, freeing the money up for other institutions that need the assistance more.

"Congress required by law that taxpayer Emergency Relief funds be given to all colleges and universities, no matter their wealth. But as I've said all along, wealthy institutions that do not primarily serve low-income students do not need or deserve additional taxpayer funds," DeVos said in a statement.

She added, "This is common sense. Schools with large endowments should not apply for funds so more can be given to students who need support the most. It's also important for Congress to change the law to make sure no more taxpayer funds go to elite, wealthy institutions."

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The CARES Act created the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) — roughly $14 billion in aid for higher education institutions. From HEERF, $12.56 billion is allocated to institutions through a formula that takes into account a school's enrollment and its number of low-income Pell Grant-eligible students.

To get their allocated aid, schools have to sign an agreement that ensures the funding is appropriately spent. According to a letter DeVos sent to institutions on April 9, "at least 50 percent must be reserved to provide students with emergency financial aid grants to help cover expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to coronavirus."

DeVos on Wednesday barred undocumented students, including beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, from receiving aid from their institutions.

“The CARES Act makes clear that this taxpayer funded relief fund should be targeted to U.S. citizens, which is consistently echoed throughout the law,” Education Department spokeswoman Angela Morabito said in an earlier statement to The Hill.

Stanford and Harvard — elite institutions with two of the largest endowments in the country — have both announced that they will reject aid allocated to them.

Harvard, the oldest higher education institution in the country, was slated to receive $8.6 million through the funding.