Apr 22, 2020 - Economy & Business

Betsy DeVos urges wealthy colleges to refund coronavirus stimulus aid

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Wednesday asked wealthy institutions to reject coronavirus emergency funding and requested that Congress change its eligibility requirements.

The big picture: Her statement comes one day after President Trump said Harvard University should pay back the $8.7 million in federal money it was due to receive from the Education Department via the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

Driving the news: Harvard announced Wednesday it will return the funds. The university said "it did not apply for this support, nor has it requested, received or accessed these funds."

"We are concerned that intense focus by politicians & others on Harvard in connection with the program may undermine participation in a relief effort Congress created & the president signed into law for the purpose of helping those whose financial challenges may be most severe."
— Harvard said in a statement

What DeVos is saying:

"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."
— per a statement Wednesday

The state of play: The coronavirus relief package allocated about $14 billion to colleges and universities. Higher education has taken a financial hit from the pandemic, closing campuses and laying off employees.

  • In early April, DeVos sent a letter asking college and university presidents to consider allocating stimulus dollars to their states and regions that are in need rather than their institutions.
  • Stanford University said Tuesday it would not collect the $7.4 million it was due to receive under the CARES Act.

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