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Rice accepts $3.4 million allocated for student financial relief under CARES Act, amid controversy


By Rynd Morgan     4/23/20 6:19pm

Rice University will accept the $3.4 million allocated to them through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, according to Kathy Collins, vice president for finance. The purpose of the fund is to provide emergency financial aid grants to students. The U.S Department of Education prohibited Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival recipients and undocumented students from receiving the federal aid provided by the CARES Act.

Rice’s acceptance of the funds follows the decision of other universities such as Stanford University, Princeton University and Harvard University to not accept money awarded through the CARES Act. Stanford did not accept the funds, saying they wanted to support smaller universities, while Princeton University declined the funding because it cannot be used to support DACA recipient students. Harvard, which initially stated it would accept the funds, later declined to do so due to increased political attention.

“Rice is not following Harvard,” Collins wrote in an email to the Thresher. “We are working through how to allocate the CARES Act funds for both undergraduate and graduate students consistent with the terms of the [act] that made the funds available. The government requires that we have a plan before we receive the funds.”

According to the Department of Education, the amount of funds a university receives is heavily weighted by the number of full-time students who are Pell grant eligible, but also takes into consideration the total population of the university. All universities who receive CARES Act funds are required to use at least 50 percent of those funds for emergency financial aid grants for students. Rice is required to use a minimum of $1,716,580 for emergency financial aid grants, but can also use the full amount.

Student Association President Anna Margaret Clyburn said that she has been working with Lovett College senior and former SA President Ariana Engles and reaching out to Student Success Initiatives and the Office of International Student Success to develop a plan to assist DACA students.

“DACA and other CARES Act ineligible students are a priority and will be taken care of,” Clyburn, a Martel College junior, said. “A letter of support for DACA students is in the works, as well as information about how students can use their individual agency to advocate. We are also considering hosting “Undocu-ally” trainings over Zoom after finals have concluded.”

Collins said that Rice’s own resources would be used to support students who are ineligible to receive CARES Act funds.

“As we figure out the specifics of how we use the federal funds to support our students, we will add additional funds from Rice's own resources to include DACA students in any specific program,” Collins said. “Because the federal government also precludes use of the federal funds for international students, we will also seek to address the needs (through Rice funds) of our international students based on each student's particular circumstances.”

Other universities, such as Cornell University, committed to using 100 percent of CARES Act funds to support students. Harvard initially stated that it would allocate all of its CARES Act award to students, rather than the 50 percent minimum allocation to be awarded for emergency financial aid grants to students as stipulated by the act, then later announced that it would not be accepting any funds.

Harvard said that they decided not to accept the funds because of political attention, including President Donald Trump asking Harvard to return the government funds, and evolving guidance issued by the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund.

“The intense focus by politicians and others on Harvard in connection with this program may undermine participation in a relief effort that Congress created and the president signed into law for the purpose of helping students and institutions whose financial challenges in the coming months may be most severe,” Harvard said in their statement.

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