The Trump administration’s Department of Education released guidance Tuesday that asserts only United States citizens and some legal permanent residents are eligible to receive aid from coronavirus relief taxpayer funding.
Students in the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, those brought to the U.S. illegally as children, are not eligible for federal aid from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF), which was created by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to release a decision about the future of the DACA program by June.
The guidance’s Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section states those eligible to participate in programs under the Higher Education Act “include, but are not limited to … U.S. citizenship or eligible noncitizen; a valid Social Security number; registration with Selective Service (if the student is male); and a high school diploma, GED, or completion of high school in an approved homeschool setting.”
According to Inside Higher Ed, Angela Morabito, a spokeswoman for the education department, said, “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.”
The report noted David Bergeron, a senior fellow at the left-wing Center for American Progress, challenged that statement saying the relief legislation allowed the education department flexibility to provide aid to DACA students.
On Tuesday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced an additional $6.2 billion to be available to higher education institutions through the HEERF. Previously, the secretary made available $6 billion for colleges and universities to provide direct emergency cash relief to students.
DeVos said in a statement:
This pandemic has made clear every single education institution should make important investments to ensure learning continues when unexpected circumstances arise. Accordingly, the additional funds made available today can be used to expand remote learning programs, build IT capacity, and train faculty and staff to operate in a remote learning environment so that at any moment institutions can pivot quickly. I hope that institutions that already have robust remote learning capacity will consider using this funding to support additional emergency cash grants for students.”
The most recent funding is part of the approximately $31 billion Congress allocated to the Department to distribute to students, K-12 schools, and colleges and universities under the CARES Act.