DeVos: Universities can’t share grants with DACA students

Betsy DeVos
Betsy DeVos | Gage Skidmore via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

WASHINGTON — Colleges and universities across the country are getting emergency federal aid for COVID-19, but some of the most vulnerable students won’t be eligible for assistance.

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has said the emergency grants — part of the $2 trillion coronavirus relief act that Congress approved last month — can’t go to undocumented students, even those who pay taxes or are under federal protection.

Some Democrats have pushed back against that decision, saying DeVos overstepped her authority by excluding them. The controversy over who should receive the education stimulus is now playing out in college financial aid offices, as universities try to figure out how to dole out the financial stimulus money in the face of mounting requests.

Congress approved almost $12 billion in aid for colleges and universities across the country as part of the economic rescue bill known as the CARES Act. Half of that is for colleges to use for direct emergency cash grants to students. The emergency grants can help students who may have lost work or housing, or need help to get set up for distance learning.

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In Michigan, colleges received a total of $354.7 million, with $177.3 million for direct aid to students.

But when the Education Department set its rules for how colleges could dole out the funds, DeVos said students must be eligible for federal financial aid funds. This blocked undocumented students, including those brought to the United States illegally as children. Those students, the so-called “Dreamers,” are shielded from deportation under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA).

The President Trump administration has moved to rescind the DACA program, but that effort has been tied up in court. The Supreme Court is weighing the fate of the program and is expected to issue an opinion in the coming weeks.

CARES Act funding for Michigan colleges  
SchoolTotal allocationMaximum for institutional costs
Adrian College$1,752,186$876,093
Albion College$1,831,231$915,615
Alma College$1,429,939$714,969
Alpena Community College$759,853$379,926
Andrews University$1,236,555$618,277
Aquinas College$1,204,512$602,256
Baker College$5,754,381$2,877,190
Bay De Noc Community College$778,116$389,058
Bay Mills Community College$222,497$111,248
Bayshire Beauty Academy$75,520$37,760
Brighton Institute Of Cosmetology$29,053$14,526
Cadillac Institute Of Cosmetology$29,719$14,859
Calvin Theological Seminary$71,301$35,650
Calvin University$2,639,029$1,319,514
Career Quest Learning Centers$1,005,286$502,643
Carnegie Institute$246,994$123,497
Central Michigan University$14,322,194$7,161,097
Charles Stewart Mott Community College$5,378,749$2,689,374
Cleary University$384,753$192,376
College For Creative Studies$1,136,489$568,244
Compass College Of Cinematic Arts$186,951$93,475
Cornerstone University$1,514,292$757,146
Cranbrook Academy Of Art$41,027$20,513
Creative Hair School Of Cosmetology$71,456$35,728
Davenport University$2,925,271$1,462,635
David Pressley Professional School Of Cosmetology$382,850$191,425
Delta College$5,146,606$2,573,303
Detroit Business Institute - Downriver$111,552$55,776
Dorsey School Of Business$4,088,414$2,044,207
Douglas J Aveda Institute$1,324,125$662,062
Eastern Michigan University$13,733,990$6,866,995
Ecumenical Theological Seminary$14,258$7,129
Elevate Salon Institute$166,435$83,217
Empire Beauty School$2,219,238$1,109,619
Ferris State University$9,146,813$4,573,406
Finlandia University$447,690$223,845
Flint Institute Of Barbering$104,198$52,099
French Academy Of Cosmetology$68,450$34,225
Glen Oaks Community College$576,681$288,340
Gogebic Community College$661,272$330,636
Grace Christian University$485,111$242,555
Grand Rapids Community College$6,806,171$3,403,085
Grand Valley State University$18,333,428$9,166,714
Great Lakes Christian College$159,906$79,953
Henry Ford College$9,153,117$4,576,558
Hillsdale Beauty College$69,128$34,564
Hope College$2,163,878$1,081,939
Irene'S Myomassology Institute$284,945$142,472
Jackson College$3,892,134$1,946,067
Kalamazoo College$1,178,454$589,227
Kalamazoo Valley Community College$4,249,299$2,124,649
Kellogg Community College$1,991,422$995,711
Kettering University$1,457,033$728,516
Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College$68,566$34,283
Kirtland Community College$712,739$356,369
Kuyper College$166,221$83,110
Lake Michigan College$1,133,204$566,602
Lake Superior State University$1,602,263$801,131
Lakewood School Of Therapeutic Massage$52,948$26,474
Lansing Community College$5,804,315$2,902,157
Lawrence Technological University$1,462,382$731,191
L'Esprit Academy$178,333$89,166
M.J. Murphy Beauty College$63,536$31,768
Macomb Community College$9,617,297$4,808,648
Madonna University$1,517,426$758,713
Marketti Academy Of Cosmetology$34,387$17,193
Miat College Of Technology$2,341,441$1,170,720
Michigan Barber School$447,200$223,600
Michigan Career And Technical Institute$238,067$119,033
Michigan College Of Beauty-Monroe$157,293$78,646
Michigan College Of Beauty-Troy$348,449$174,224
Michigan School Of Psychology$43,937$21,968
Michigan State University$29,836,588$14,918,294
Michigan State University College Of Law$221,124$110,562
Michigan Technological University$4,605,779$2,302,889
Mid Michigan College$2,641,059$1,320,529
Monroe County Community College$1,300,516$650,258
Montcalm Community College$861,963$430,981
Muskegon Community College$2,247,350$1,123,675
North Central Michigan College$835,428$417,714
Northern Michigan University$5,994,618$2,997,309
Northwestern Michigan College$2,124,216$1,062,108
Northwestern Technological Institute$1,108,949$554,474
Northwood University$1,358,224$679,112
Nuvo College Of Cosmetology$58,614$29,307
Oakland Community College$7,474,366$3,737,183
Oakland University$13,796,824$6,898,412
Olivet College$1,315,786$657,893
P&A Scholars Beauty School$278,254$139,127
Paul Mitchell The School Grand Rapids$153,424$76,712
Paul Mitchell The School Farmington Hills$190,962$95,481
Paul Mitchell The School Great Lakes$306,375$153,187
Port Huron Cosmetology College$39,026$19,513
Princess Beauty School$51,144$25,572
Protege Academy$194,895$97,447
Rochester University$787,257$393,628
Ross Medical Education Center$2,973,094$1,486,547
Ross Medical Education Center$2,521,578$1,260,789
Ross Medical Education Center$2,390,068$1,195,034
Ross Medical Education Center$2,164,321$1,082,160
Sacred Heart Major Seminary$74,193$37,096
Saginaw Chippewa Tribal College$83,912$41,956
Saginaw Valley State University$6,911,064$3,455,532
School Of Missionary Aviation Technology$32,257$16,128
Schoolcraft College$4,676,826$2,338,413
Sharp'S Academy Of Hairstyling$50,808$25,404
Siena Heights University$1,545,879$772,939
Southwestern Michigan College$1,522,115$761,057
Specs Howard School Of Media Arts$702,843$351,421
Spring Arbor University$1,581,268$790,634
St. Clair County Community College$1,909,478$954,739
Taylortown School Of Beauty$375,859$187,929
Thomas M. Cooley Law School$405,235$202,617
Twin City Beauty College$294,015$147,007
U.S. Truck Driver Training School$38,918$19,459
University Of Detroit Mercy$3,105,323$1,552,661
University Of Michigan - Ann Arbor$25,244,052$12,622,026
University Of Michigan - Dearborn$6,989,129$3,494,564
University Of Michigan - Flint$4,600,155$2,300,077
Walsh College Of Accountancy & Business Administration$422,403$211,201
Washtenaw Community College$4,968,890$2,484,445
Wayne County Community College District$6,158,090$3,079,045
Wayne State University$19,306,183$9,653,091
West Michigan College Of Barbering And Beauty$72,745$36,372
West Shore Community College$564,751$282,375
Western Michigan University$15,486,304$7,743,152
Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School Of Medicine$78,563$39,281
Western Theological Seminary$24,397$12,198
Wright Beauty Academy$64,647$32,323
Yeshiva Gedolah Of Greater Detroit$100,742$50,371


The COVID-19 aid requirements also create barriers for other students who do not qualify for “Free Application for Federal Student Aid,” including those who have minor drug convictions, have defaulted on student loans, or have not registered with the Selective Service.

“The lengths this administration goes through to exclude DACA students ends up hurting a lot more [people],” said Justin Draeger, president of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators.

Lawmakers push back 

Many Democrats have pushed to change the requirements, and dozens of U.S. House Democrats signed a letter criticizing DeVos’s guidance, including U.S. Reps. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit).

“We request that you immediately help students most in need during these unprecedented and challenging times and ensure emergency financial aid grants are fully distributed in an efficient manner,” the lawmakers wrote. “Additionally, we request you change your guidance to allow all students access to this vital aid.”

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And a group of Senate Democrats asked DeVos to reverse her decision and allow DACA students to receive funding.

DeVos maintains she had little choice.

“The CARES Act makes clear that this taxpayer-funded relief fund should be targeted to U.S. citizens, which is consistently echoed throughout the law,” Education Department press secretary Angela Morabito said.

But Democrats who helped write the law have said they did not mean for the funding to be restricted. U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the top Democrats on the subcommittees that oversee Education Department appropriations, also asked DeVos to reverse the rule.

“We are deeply disappointed with your unauthorized decision to restrict eligibility for emergency financial aid to students during this difficult time for our country and in violation of congressional intent,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter to DeVos on May 1.

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Colleges receive funding based on the number of full-time, in-person students receiving federal grants. But the funding formula also means schools with undocumented students qualify for more money based on their enrollment — even though the school can’t use the money to help those students.

“These students are helping to generate and drive dollars to their colleges, but they won’t receive stimulus funds because of the very unnecessary decision that the Education Department has made,” said Viviann Anguiano, associate director for Postsecondary Education at the Center for American Progress.

“Some of these families are in desperate need of support, and it is likely that students who are in need of the dollars most won’t be receiving them.”

The next step?

Education advocacy groups asked lawmakers for more money for K-12 and higher education in the next COVID-19 relief bill. The groups want $50 billion for higher education to help bridge the gap of lost income for colleges and support students in need.

More than 70 groups — including the National Education Association, American Federation of Teachers, National Urban League, and the NAACP — signed the letter to House and Senate leadership.

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The groups asked Congress to include language “explicitly stating” that no one otherwise eligible would be excluded because of immigration status or other non-merit factors.

A group of House Democrats introduced a “Coronavirus Immigrant Families Protection Act” last month that would direct economic support to immigrant families through testing, health care and economic support. Tlaib is a co-sponsor.

U.S. Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) introduced similar legislation in the Senate. The legislation is unlikely to advance in the Republican-controlled Senate, but plants a flag for the issue as lawmakers debate future relief bills.

Health and human rights advocacy groups sent a recent letter pressing congressional leadership to work on legislation to support immigrant families.

Advance reporter Allison Donahue contributed to this story.