I write today in frustration.
You may have heard that Congress recently passed the CARES Act, which includes money intended to help colleges and universities navigate these difficult times. A significant portion of that money – at least half – is supposed to be awarded as emergency grants to students. After the legislation was passed Secretary Betsy DeVos of the US Department of Education, stated unequivocally that colleges and universities would have the flexibility to distribute the funding to students as they saw fit. In keeping with the secretary’s statements, and the flexibility in the CARES Act itself, our colleges and universities had planned to distribute funding widely, sending checks to all eligible students.
However, without warning, and in apparent contradiction with the secretary’s promises, the Department of Education released guidance last week severely restricting which students are eligible to receive CARES Act payments. Specifically, the guidance has the effect of limiting assistance to those who have filed a FAFSA. As you know, there are myriad reasons an eligible student and their family would choose not to complete a FAFSA. The complexity of the process prevents many students from completing the form. Likewise, a large number middle class families – many of whom have experienced the loss of one or more incomes – did not file a FAFSA and will now miss out on these payments. In addition, undocumented students, international students, and many noncredit students, are ineligible under the department’s guidance.
In total, it could disqualify up to 30,000 students across our institutions.
This is unconscionable to me, and I have already reached out to Secretary DeVos to encourage her to reverse this decision. We all hope that she will agree to allow payments to more of our students, and I will keep you updated on any response we receive.
In the meantime, our team is going forward with processing payments for students who remain eligible, so if you haven’t already done so, please sign up for direct deposit in MyCommnet.
We understand the urgency of the situation, so we are working on processing payments as quickly as possible.
Mark E. Ojakian
President, Connecticut State Colleges and Universities
P.S. If anyone is interested in sharing their thoughts or concerns about this sudden decision to make up to 30,000 students at Connecticut’s public colleges and universities ineligible for much-needed emergency funding with Secretary DeVos, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.