DeVos Formally Cuts DACA Students From $6B Virus Relief

By Alyssa Aquino
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Law360 (June 12, 2020, 2:27 PM EDT) -- Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has formally cut out Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients from the $6 billion relief that Congress set aside for students to obtain food, health care and child care amid the coronavirus crisis.

The U.S. Department of Education released an interim final rule Thursday clarifying that only students eligible for federal financial aid — as noted in Title IV of the Higher Education Act, which authorizes federal assistance programs — can access the emergency fund set up by the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act.

Students ineligible for federal financial aid include undocumented students and international students.

"U.S. taxpayers have long supported U.S. students pursuing higher education and this rule simply ensures the continuity of that well-established policy," DeVos said in a statement.

The policy will also hit students who aren't in good academic standing and students in default on a federal student loan, as well as those enrolled in non-Title IV programs, according to the final rule.

The Education Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday.

In April, the Education Department issued policy guidance stating that only students with Title IV eligibility can qualify for the emergency virus funds. However, the guidance was nonbinding and certain universities and colleges refrained against releasing some, if not all, of their relief funds in anticipation of a legally binding final rule, the department said.

Education advocates tore into the guidance when it was first issued in April, saying the policy could end the college careers of undocumented students, who are already at a greater risk of food and shelter insecurities.

Advocates said at the time that they needed clarity from the Education Department on who could tap into the emergency virus relief, noting that Congress had been silent on undocumented students' and DACA recipients' eligibility in the CARES Act legislation.

The coronavirus relief bill didn't explicitly define students eligible for the multibillion-dollar relief. But the Education Department pointed to Congress' references to the Title IV statute regarding how the funds would be allocated to schools to make the connection, the final rule said.

Several community colleges have filed suit in California federal court seeking an injunction staying the guidance. U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers held off on deciding their motion in anticipation of the Education Department's final rule. 

--Editing by Abbie Sarfo.

For a reprint of this article, please contact reprints@law360.com.

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