On Tuesday, May 11, the United States Department of Education released a package of federal aid for colleges and universities that amounts to just over $36 billion. The money, part of the latest pandemic relief package, will go to shore up the over 5000 colleges and universities hit hardest by the pandemic. Most of these serve underserved communities; schools with mostly white or affluent student bases were less vulnerable to the changing economy.
“These funds are critical to ensuring that all of our nation’s students – particularly those disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic – have the opportunity to enroll, continue their education, graduate and pursue their careers,” said Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said to the press on Monday evening before the release. “With this action, thousands of institutions will be able to provide direct relief to students who need it most, so we can make sure that we not only recover from the pandemic but also build back even stronger than before.”
Approximately half of the funding will be going directly to students. Students who are eligible for federal Pell Grants will receive additional funds to help them cover essential expenses so they can remain enrolled. Unlike earlier rounds of stimulus funds, these will also be available to students enrolled under the DACA provisions for immigrant children.
The other half of the $36 billion will go directly to the colleges and universities, to be used to reduce the harm of the pandemic. Schools are to use it for vaccination or hygiene projects, mental health support, or to discharge student debts so that students forced out of school during the pandemic can re-enroll.
This aid package is larger than what the schools in question – which include community colleges and minority-serving institutions – already receive from the federal government. The $2.6 billion of it that is directed for historically black colleges and universities is the largest ever single investment made in that sector.