Coronavirus Outbreak

DeVos Releases $6 Billion to Help Colleges Adjust to Coronavirus

April 21, 2020, 8:45 PM

Colleges forced by the coronavirus pandemic to make costly changes such as rapidly switching to online instruction will be eligible for shares of $6.2 billion in aid that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos released Tuesday.

The $2.2 trillion CARES Act (Public Law 116-136) enacted in March provided roughly $14 billion in relief for higher education. Nearly half of that funding will go directly to students through grants distributed by their colleges, which DeVos began releasing to schools earlier this month.

The funding opened Tuesday will allow colleges to offset some costs of responding to the pandemic, such as the move to online instruction.

Colleges and universities across the country have shut down campuses to halt the spread of coronavirus in recent weeks. Many have refunded costs of room and board to students while losing revenue from canceled campus events, opening gaping holes in the balance sheets of higher-education institutions.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos
Alex Edelman/Bloomberg

“This pandemic has made clear every single education institution should make important investments to ensure learning continues when unexpected circumstances arise,” DeVos said in a statement. “Accordingly, the additional funds made available today can be used to expand remote learning programs, build IT capacity, and train faculty and staff to operate in a remote learning environment so that at any moment institutions can pivot quickly.”

The Education Department previously released figures for allocations of CARES Act money to each college.

Flexibility Urged

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), chairwoman of the House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee, urged the rapid release of CARES Act money in a letter to DeVos this week. She also said the Education Department should put limited restrictions on the use of those funds.

“In recognition of the diverse, changing needs on the ground related to this national emergency, we provided significant flexibility for grantees,” DeLauro wrote. “I expect the Department to allow states, school districts, and institutions of higher education to take advantage of this statutory flexibility as they respond to the national emergency over the coronavirus pandemic.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Kreighbaum in Washington at akreighbaum@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Paul Hendrie at phendrie@bgov.com; Loren Duggan at lduggan@bgov.com

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