Here’s the latest on how to use COVID higher ed stimulus

Department of Education also acts to cancel $1 billion in student loan debt

Colleges and universities can the latest COVID stimulus funds to discharge loans debts and support students with exceptional needs, says the latest Department of Education guidance.

Institutions can use the funds to cover unpaid balances so students can resume their studies and also to subsidize childcare services for student parents, the department said Thursday in an update to Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) spending.

“One of my first priorities is to ensure that institutions of higher education have the financial support and resources needed to support their students and mitigate the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 emergency,” Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement.

In discharging debts, colleges and universities can make direct grants to students or use institutional grants to reimburse themselves for lost revenue while supporting students during the pandemic.

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Because the pandemic has exacerbated inequities in education system, colleges can also use the funding make financial aid grants to students in dual enrollment programs and continuing education. Administrators should also consider providing aid to students with exceptional needs, such as refugees or persons granted political asylum.

Facing food insecurity

Colleges and universities should reach out to students who meet temporarily expanded eligibility criteria for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Under regular requirements, students enrolled at least half-time in an institution of higher education are often ineligible for the program. Eligibility has been expanded to students who participate in state or federally financed work study during the regular academic year or students who ave an expected family contribution of zero  in the current academic year. This includes students who are eligible for a maximum Pell Grant.

“Many college students have also had to deal with food insecurity,” Cardona said. “This direct outreach from the Department is an attempt to get every eligible college student to apply for these benefits so that they no longer have to worry about their next meal.”

More debt relief

The Department of Education is also seeking to cancel $1 billion in loan debt held by about 72,000 borrowers, Cardona said.

He will rescind a Trump-era policy that calculated partial debt relief and streamline the cancellation of loans and reimbursement for payments made.

“Borrowers deserve a simplified and fair path to relief when they have been harmed by their institution’s misconduct,” Cardona said. “A close review of these claims and the associated evidence showed these borrowers have been harmed and we will grant them a fresh start from their debt.”

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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