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Delaware universities consider how they’ll use stimulus funds

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Most Delaware universities know how much they’ll get in direct aid from the federal government through the CARES Act, but few say they know how they’ll use it. 

Unless they’re receiving additional aid from other sources, each school must provide half of their allocation to students with the remaining funds reimbursing the school for losses incurred this summer. 

Not surprisingly, the state’s largest university, the University of Delaware, is receiving the most money – nearly $12.2 million – although like many schools it had not yet been disbursed to the university as of April 23. 

“We are grateful on behalf of our students and our institution for this support,” said UD spokesperson Andrea Boyle in a statement. “The university’s losses due to coronavirus currently total $50 million and so many of our students and their families have suffered serious financial hardships.” 

The U.S. Department of Education informed administrators on April 21 that they are only allowed to issue funds to students who are eligible for Title IV financial aid. That cuts out international students and undocumented immigrants — including those receiving Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) protections, or so-called Dreamers — from receiving any of the roughly $6 billion that the CARES Act allocates directly to emergency student aid. 

Those limitations came even as the stimulus law itself made no mention of eligibility for federal student aid to qualify for the emergency money. In addition, the formula Congress used to allocate the money included all students, not just those who can receive the Title IV dollars. Some higher-education associations questioned whether the department had made a reasonable interpretation of the legislation. 

Goldey-Beacom College President Colleen Perry Keith provided the most detailed response to Delaware Business Times questions about using the money. 

“GBC has issued pro-rated housing refunds to all students based on when they moved out of their on-campus residence,” she said. “Nearly all students moved out by 6 p.m. on March 16 and their refunds were processed prior to the passage of the CARES Act. We plan to issue emergency cash grants to students who have been adversely impacted by the ongoing pandemic using the guidance of the U.S. Department of Education. 

But Keith said GBC is not able to apply any of the $520,010 for emergency cash grants to refunds already processed.  

“The funds are meant to cover unforeseen expenses related to the disruption of campus operations, including but not limited to food, housing, health care, and course-related materials,” she said. “We have pulled together an online application process and criteria that will be shared with our students (undergrad and grad) very soon. We will prioritize students with greatest need and max the grant at $6,195 for any one student (the maximum Pell Grant threshold). We wrote our policies and procedures without a limitation on the number of times a student could request funding, but the cap would be $6,195. We are aware that additional guidance from the U.S Department of Education will be forthcoming and are also aware that DACA and international students are likely not eligible for these emergency cash grants based upon federal funding laws.” 

As for the $520,010 in university stimulus funds earmarked for Goldey-Beacom itself, Keith said that is meant “to help cover losses, though no clear direction has been received yet on parameters for spending that money. We know that we have continued to pay our student workers even though they are not working, as well as our faculty and staff. We incurred expense in ramping up to be able to offer education remotely, and to help our employees to work remotely. I suspect we will be able to justify the need for the entire $520,010 and I also suspect our students will need the full balance of $520,010.”  

Like a number of other schools, Delaware Technical Community College spokesperson  Christine Gillan – whose school will receive just over $9 million – said her fiscal team is working with the federal Office of Management and Budget to “come up with options for developing a strategy for accessing these funds to support our students. We don’t have a lot of details yet, but we are working to get them.” 

Delaware State University is receiving nearly $5.6 million in total but will also get some portion of $1 billion that was set aside for Historically Black Colleges & Universities and Minority-Serving Institution in the $43.7 billion allocation for higher education. 

At this point we don’t know precisely how much we will receive from that particular source, and we don’t yet know what restrictions may be placed on its use,” said DSU spokesman Steven Newton in a statement. “Delaware State will follow all federal guidelines for dispensing all such funds, and it is appropriate that a significant percentage is reserved for direct support of our students, many of whom are being challenged to continue their educations under extremely difficult conditions. We are exploring all the options for using this money as creatively as possible to keep them on track while still following the appropriate regulations.”  

Among the other schools on the list, a few are based outside of Delaware but have an in-state campus or online program. Wilmington University declined comment and a few others did not respond to DBT’s email request for information about the university stimulus funds. 

–By Peter Osborne


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