Harvard says it won’t accept coronavirus aid after Trump criticism

Harvard University will no longer accept funding allocated to it through a federal coronavirus aid package after President Trump questioned why the school needed assistance, given its large endowment fund.

“We have previously said that Harvard, like other institutions, will face significant financial challenges due to the pandemic and economic crisis it has caused,” the university said in a statement. “We are also concerned however, that the intense focus by politicians and others on Harvard in connection with this program may undermine participation in a relief effort … for the purpose of helping students and institutions whose financial challenges in the coming months may be most severe.”

“As a result of this, and the evolving guidance being issued around use of the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, Harvard has decided not to seek or accept the funds allocated to it by statute,” the university added.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act signed into law by Trump last month provided Harvard with $8.6 million through funding set aside for higher education relief. The funding was meant to assist colleges and universities grappling with financial woes because of the coronavirus, which has forced classes to move online and led to the cancellation of revenue-producing sporting events.

Recipients included Ivy League schools like Harvard, vocational colleges and large public colleges. The funding was intended to partly make up for lost revenue, while roughly half went to students in the form of grants.

But Trump on Tuesday zeroed in on Harvard amid broader outcry about large companies taking federal loans intended to assist small businesses during the pandemic-induced downturn.

“Harvard should pay that money back. I want Harvard to pay the money back,” Trump said at a news conference, citing the school’s $41 billion endowment. “OK? And if they won’t do that, then we won’t do something else. They have to pay it back. I don’t like it.”

Trump appeared to mistake the CARES Act funding for colleges with the Payroll Protection Program funding for small businesses, a distinction the school pointed out in its initial statement on Tuesday night.

But other administration officials, including Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, piled on the criticism Wednesday in pressuring Harvard to forgo its funding through the CARES Act.

“As I’ve said since day 1, wealthy institutions like @Harvard don’t need this money,” DeVos tweeted. “They should follow Stanford’s lead & embrace the @ShakeShack principle – leave the $$ for those with the greatest need!”

Tags Betsy DeVos CARES Act Coronavirus Department of Education Donald Trump Harvard University Higher education

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