Financial aid will be available to undocumented college students.
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The Obama administration said this morning that it would issue a regulation that would allow undocumented students to receive some of the $36 billion in emergency stimulus money that is now being distributed to schools and universities.
According to the Department of Education, all students, including those who have never formally asked for federal aid, are now eligible.
According to The New York Times, the action is a departure from the Trump administration’s decision to deny such students access to prior rounds of financing, even if they are federally protected as “Dreamers.”
“The pandemic did not discriminate against kids,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a phone call with reporters on Monday, outlining the administration’s plans. “We understand that the final rule will apply to all students, and we want to ensure that all students have access to monies to help them get back on track.”
The decision is a complete 180 from Trump administration officials’ attempts to bar most undocumented students from receiving financial aid. Last June, Betsy DeVos, Trump’s Secretary of Education, issued an emergency rule prohibiting international and undocumented students, including tens of thousands of so-called “Dreamers” protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, from receiving an earlier round of more than $6 billion in emergency aid funds, a decision that was quickly challenged in court.
Undocumented students who are not eligible for other forms of school aid have been considered for months by Biden administration officials.
Undocumented immigrants are usually ineligible for federal funds under current welfare regulations, including those provided by President Biden’s $1.9 billion pandemic relief package approved last March.
Last night, an Education Department spokeswoman said the government had the authority to distribute funds to undocumented students through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, which was established as part of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act signed by former President Trump in March 2020, and that Congress “did not draw clear lines around who is a student” in determining who could receive money from the fund.
Existing eligibility criteria for the fund “make clear that emergency financial aid can support all students who are or were enrolled at an institution of higher education during the pandemic national emergency,” according to the spokeswoman. “It is up to the institution to distribute the funds to students most in need,” she added.
“What it truly accomplishes is simplify the notion of ‘student,'” Secretary Cardona said, framing the legislation as a matter of convenience. It makes it easier for institutions to run the program and distribute funds to students faster.”
According to Cardona, nearly half of the $36 billion for institutions will go directly to students, with the remaining $10 billion going to community colleges.