Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Biden Ends Trump Ban on Pandemic Aid for Undocumented College Students

The Biden administration is reversing a Trump- era policy that banned undocumented college students from receiving federal relief grants meant to help pay expenses such as food, housing, and childcare during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier this week, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona finalized a new regulation that allows colleges to distribute billions in federal pandemic relief grants to all students, regardless of their immigration status or whether they qualify for federal student aid. In an interview Miguel Cardona stated, “The pandemic didn’t discriminate which students got COVID, so the final rule does allow for all students to access the funding. The goal was to make sure that all students have an opportunity to have access to the funds to help them get back on track.”

The policy change was announced as the Department of Education unveiled that it would begin distributing $36 billion in federal relief funding for higher education. Colleges and Universities will both receive an allocation for the funding based on the share of Pell grant recipients enrolled at each institution.

The regulation set to be released by the Department of Education replaces a policy that former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos enacted. The DeVos rule stated that colleges could provide federal COVID relief funding only to students who qualify for federal financial aid. The rule excluded undocumented students and international students studying in the U.S., as well as some U.S. citizens who do not  qualify for federal financial aid for multiple unrelated reasons.

Last year three federal judges in different parts of the country struck down DeVos’ restrictions on the funding, which congressional Democrats also deemed as illegal. However, the court rulings applied only to colleges in Massachusetts and Washington state as well as community colleges in California.

Miguel Cardona stated that the new regulation makes all students eligible, meaning it will be “easier for colleges to administer the program and get money in the hands of students sooner.” According to the new regulation, it will be up to colleges and universities to decide how to distribute the funding to their students though the law requires that schools prioritize students who have financial needs.