Fast-tracked rule will make it harder for millions of students to receive emergency aid provided by Congress to address basic needs during Covid-19 pandemic
Moments ago, the United States Department of Education released an interim final rule to prohibit institutions of higher education from offering access to student emergency assistance grants funded by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. By requiring eligibility for Title IV federal financial aid to qualify for emergency support, the rule effectively prohibits students who are undocumented or have residency status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The rule also adds a layer of complication for millions of other students–including many student veterans.
Following publication of the rule, Kyle Southern, Policy and Advocacy Director for Higher Education and Workforce for Young Invincibles, issued the following statement:
“It’s shameful the Education Department is exhausting every avenue in pursuit of the administration’s xenophobic policy agenda–all during a pandemic. The Department’s effort to exclude hundreds of thousands of tax-paying students from assistance they deserve will also continue to cost millions of other students struggling to make ends meet. Rather than go through a standard rulemaking process, Secretary DeVos is fast-tracking a rule that will add further chaos to implementing the CARES Act while denying students the baseline of support Congress has provided with nearly unanimous support.
The courts should rebuke this effort based on a plain reading of the law. But this action shows Congress must amend the CARES Act to prohibit the Secretary from imposing arbitrary restrictions on emergency assistance based on qualifications beyond a student’s enrollment at a college or university. The HEROES Act would accomplish this goal.”
A May 20, 2020 analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service determined “the Secretary’s interpretation is not a particularly persuasive reading of the statute.” This week courts heard arguments for lawsuits brought by the states of California and Washington against the Department to lift the restrictions put in place by its previous eligibility guidance.
- According to the American Council on Education, 7.5 million students have not filed federal financial aid applications. The interim final rule would require students to complete, under penalty of perjury, an additional form affirming their Title IV eligibility.
- More than a third of undergraduate student veterans do not file a FAFSA, including nearly half of student veteran community college students.
- According to the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, 450,000 undergraduates are undocumented residents. More than 200,000 of these students are eligible for DACA.
- Other students excluded from emergency assistance eligibility include those with a previous minor drug offense or who have not registered for Selective Service.