On Tuesday, the Department of Education (ED) released new guidance on the third round of Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) grants authorized by the American Rescue Plan. The department also released institutional allocations for HEERF III grants to public and nonprofit institutions, as well as proprietary institutions.
In this latest guidance, the department provided additional ways in which institutions can utilize the recently enacted $36 billion in emergency grants to support vulnerable students, monitor and suppress the coronavirus, and re-engage students whose education was disrupted by the pandemic. In a shift from the previous administration, the guidance, including a new final rule on student eligibility, also allows undocumented students, those enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and international students to access the emergency grants.
“Denying emergency grants to DACA and undocumented students wasn’t just legally questionable, it was a moral failing,” said NASFAA President Justin Draeger. “I’m relieved and thankful to see that corrected today.”
The final rule now defines student eligibility for the grants as “any individual who is or was enrolled at an eligible institution on or after March 13, 2020, the date of declaration of the national emergency due to the coronavirus.” Therefore, it is no longer required that students be (or could be) Title IV-eligible, as they were for funds issued through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Newly published FAQs answer the question on whether emergency grants can be used for DACA, undocumented, and international students plainly, stating: