UChicago to Direct $6.2 Million in CARES Act Funds to Students as Emergency Financial Aid

The University will use “use institutional funds, as opposed to CARES Act funds, to support undocumented and other students who may not meet existing federal eligibility requirements,” according to a University spokesperson.


Levi Hall

By Miles Burton, Co-Editor-in-Chief ('20-'21)

UChicago has accepted the $6.2 million it was awarded by the Department of Education from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Provost Ka Yee Lee and Dean of Students Michelle Rasmussen announced on Thursday by email.

The CARES Act, which totaled $2 trillion, is the largest economic stimulus package in U.S. history. Of that $2 trillion, the Department of Education received a total of $31 billion, with $14 billion earmarked for postsecondary education.

In April, the Department of Education announced that UChicago would be eligible to receive $6,207,010 of the $12.56 billion it would distribute to institutions of higher education to cover costs incurred in responding to COVID-19 and to support students impacted by the pandemic.

Thursday’s email said the University will distribute the entire $6.2 million sum “as grants to those students in our University with the greatest financial need.”

The University notified eligible students in a separate email that they could apply for grants of up to $2,500 to cover expenses in several categories related to COVID-19, including food, housing, course materials, technology, healthcare, and childcare.

In allocating CARES Act funds, the Department of Education mandated that at least half of each allocation be disbursed as grants to students, while it said schools could determine how they would use the rest to cover costs associated with COVID-19.

The email said that “the University has identified undergraduate, graduate, and professional school students with the greatest financial need,” who will receive further instructions on how to apply for CARES Act funds.

It remains unclear whether students who are ineligible for federal student aid—including undocumented students—can receive CARES Act funding under Department of Education rules. The Department originally said that these students would be excluded from CARES Act money for students, but in a court filing last week, the Department said it does not intend to enforce that rule.

The University will “use institutional funds, as opposed to CARES Act funds, to support undocumented and other students who may not meet existing federal eligibility requirements” University spokesperson Gerald McSwiggan said in an email to The Maroon.

UChicago’s announcement came after many peer institutions indicated whether they would accept or refuse CARES Act funds from the Department of Education.

On April 21, shortly after the Department of Education’s announcement, President Donald Trump and several members of Congress said that Harvard University, which has an endowment valued at $40 billion, should not have received assistance from the CARES Act.

The next day, Harvard announced that it would not accept the $9 million it was awarded. Several other universities with billion-dollar endowments subsequently refused the money they were allocated, including Princeton, Yale, Stanford, Northwestern, the University of Pennsylvania, Duke, and Notre Dame.

While UChicago’s decision to accept CARES Act funds from the Department of Education came later than those of many of its peer institutions, the University has already accepted other financial support through the CARES Act. The University of Chicago Medical Center received $35,925,481 from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Provider Relief Fund—a $175 billion dollar pool of CARES Act money administered by the HHS—in early May.