College undecided on federal stimulus funds
The College has not applied for the $3,429,350 in emergency funding offered to Dartmouth through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act and “has not determined whether to do so” as of Saturday, according to College spokesperson Diana Lawrence.
An April 9 U.S. Department of Education letter to college and university presidents stated that the CARES Act will distribute “roughly $14 billion in funds to institutions of higher education” and stipulates that at least 50 percent of the funding should be “reserved to provide students with emergency financial aid grants to help cover expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to coronavirus.”
The letter adds that institutions can access funds from the CARES Act by signing and returning a “Certificate of Funding and Agreement.”
Colleges across the country are deciding whether or not to apply for their allocated CARES funding. Cornell University accepted the funding but has promised to use all of the money for emergency student aid. Harvard University, Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania and Yale University have announced they will not accept the funds, while Brown University and Columbia University have indicated that they are still deciding.
A post on Yale’s website expressed hope that “the Department of Education will use Yale’s portion of the funding to support colleges and universities in Connecticut whose continued existence is threatened by the current crisis.”
Harvard originally accepted the funds but withdrew following criticism from President Donald Trump. A Harvard spokesperson wrote in an April 22 statement that despite “significant financial challenges” due to COVID-19, the university would turn down the funds out of concern that “the intense focus by politicians and others” might undermine the funding’s intended purpose.
Lawrence declined to provide a date by which the College will make a decision regarding the CARES funding but noted that the closing date for applying for the federal funds is September 30, 2020.
The newly-formed Dartmouth Student Union, which intends to assess the needs of the student body and make demands to the administration, circulated an open letter demanding the College to make a decision regarding CARES Act funding. Among the letter’s demands were the creation of a “student liaison committee” to contribute to the decision-making process for the allocation of CARES funds, along with the prioritization of low-income students in the disbursement of funds and the matching of funding for undocumented students, who are ineligible for federal aid under the CARES Act.
In an email to campus on April 24, the Dartmouth Democrats expressed their support for the DSU’s April 20 letter to the College administration and COVID-19 task force regarding CARES funding.
Nicole Tiao ’20, a DSU organizer, said that the group wants Dartmouth to use “the whole one hundred percent” of the CARES money for emergency student aid — double the mandated 50 percent. DSU organizer Olivia Audsley ’21 added that the group specifically demands that the College distributes “most of the aid” to low-income students who are Pell Grant recipients.
“A lot of people have the misconception that everyone [at Dartmouth] is really wealthy, and it’s just not true,” Tiao said.
Audsley and Tiao said that the DSU does not have an official stance as to whether or not the College should accept the CARES funding.
“It’s kind of tricky because Dartmouth isn’t giving money to students right now, and the CARES Act is one way that you can actually guarantee that the school will have to give money to students,” Tiao said. “But at the same time, there are other colleges that are in a lot more need than us.”
Meanwhile, Audsley said that she would prefer the College to accept the money.
“Unless they’re planning to start giving out emergency student relief aid from their own funds, I see no reason for them to turn this down,” Audsley said.
Tiao said that, “especially” during the pandemic, “there needs to be transparency” between students and the administration.