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Wilmington University declines CARES Act funding

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Wilmington University decided to turn down federal stimulus funds due to restrictions placed on the money. | PHOTO COURTESY OF WILMINGTON UNIVERSITY/PAUL PATTON

NEW CASTLE – Wilmington University is declining $3.1 million in federal stimulus funding earmarked for response to the coronavirus pandemic in favor of providing its own support to students.

The university also said it is freezing tuition rates for the 2020-21 academic year and waiving late-payment fees through December 2020.

University officials felt that the restrictions imposed on the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds by the U.S. Department of Education were too limiting to justify accepting the funding.

The internal relief funds will come from the university’s budget and the school is prepared to contribute up to $1.6 million, although it will consider increasing that amount if student need is greater, university spokesman Bill Swain said.

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.

“We will suggest that the Department of Education reallocate those funds to other Delaware institutions that have a greater need,” said university President Dr. LaVerne Harmon in a statement.

Affordability, access and opportunity are at the center of the university’s mission, Harmon said, adding that the decision to freeze tuition rates was made to ease the burden placed on students who have been impacted financially by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The decision was not a big surprise given that the university has a large international-student population and many of its students take online classes from outside of Delaware and are not paying the room and board charges that other Delaware schools are refunding using the funds.

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. In Wilmington University’s case, the school’s existing emphasis on online education and remote learning meant it did not have to scramble to provide alternatives to students when the pandemic hit.

“We did not have losses that would have qualified,” Swain said. “The CARES Act is very specific regarding who is eligible for the funds. There would have been a limited number of students eligible for the funds. Our goal is to support students in need, regardless of how they choose to study or their demographics.”

By Peter Osborne

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