Stimulus bill provides universities billions in relief aid, expands Pell Grants

The federal stimulus package signed into law Sunday will provide roughly $23 billion in relief funds to colleges and universities as they grapple with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The legislation also simplified the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and expanded the Pell Grant program. But the package fell short of the $120 billion in aid requested by higher education advocacy groups.

The legislation requires half of the funding earmarked to institutions of higher education, which totals $22.7 billion, to be spent on student emergency aid, similar to the CARES Act passed this spring. GW directed all of its $9.1 million in allocated funding under the act to student aid.

The funding is allocated to schools based on a more complicated formula than the CARES Act. It is not immediately clear how much funding GW will receive.

Ted Mitchell, the president of the American Council on Education – which lists GW as a member institution – said the package will include “limited relief” that is not “nearly enough.”

“It is disappointing that Congress has arrived, finally, at a compromise on further COVID-19 relief that is wholly inadequate to meet the needs of students and colleges and universities,” Mitchell said in a statement. “As we have detailed in a recent letter to congressional leaders signed by more than 100 associations, the situation currently facing America’s colleges and universities is a crisis of almost unimaginable magnitude.”

But ACE applauded the inclusion of language simplifying the FAFSA and expanding the Pell Grant program.

The bill reduces the number of questions on the FAFSA from 108 to 36, extends Pell Grant eligibility to incarcerated students and increases the number of students eligible for the maximum award.

​“We applaud the bipartisan agreement to simplify the process of applying for federal student aid, which will make it significantly easier for students and families to complete the FAFSA form and increase the number of individuals who receive aid,” Mitchell said in a separate statement.

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