As part of the $2 trillion stimulus package passed by Congress late last month, Kenyon will receive roughly $940,000 to carry it through the pandemic, according to Inside Higher Ed’s report on Friday. Of this money, half will be allocated toward emergency financial aid grants for students, namely those unable to pay tuition due to financial circumstances caused by the pandemic.
The COVID-19 relief bill, also known as the CARES Act, allocates $14 billion to institutions of higher education. While a seemingly exorbitant number, college and university leaders across the country have expressed concerns both that it is not enough and won’t come in time.
As institutions grapple with the economic burden of refunding tens of millions in housing and dining fees, endowments beholden to a volatile stock market and the additional costs of remote learning, they are desperate to receive federal funding now more than ever. Unfortunately, this package is far less than the $50 billion in emergency aid that they requested.
“While this legislation is an improvement from where the Senate started, the amount of money it provides to students and higher education institutions remains woefully inadequate,” Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education (ACE), said in a statement. ACE represents more than 1,700 colleges and universities, including Kenyon.
At just under $1 million, Kenyon is receiving considerably less than its peer institutions, and least among those in the Five Colleges of Ohio, while Ohio Wesleyan University and Kenyon have comparable enrollment sizes, Ohio Wesleyan will receive roughly $700,000 more. This is likely due to the nature of the distribution of funding, which favors institutions with higher numbers of low-income students: 75 percent of this money is being distributed based on the percentage of an institution’s students who receive Pell Grants, while the other 25 percent is being allocated according to enrollment numbers.
This complex distribution system, however, is currently doing far more harm than good. As a form of means-testing, it requires intense time for the Department of Education to combine thousands of databases and wrestle with technical questions, which could delay the stimulus by months, according to Inside Higher Ed.
There has yet to be an announcement from the Education Department as to when colleges and universities can expect to receive these funds. In response, Mitchell wrote a letter to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos on April 2, expressing these concerns on behalf of the country’s institutions of higher education.
“We appreciate the significant sums the federal government has provided thus far to combat the impact of COVID-19 on our campuses. However, we must stress that the assistance included for students and institutions in the CARES Act is far below what is essential to respond to the financial disasters confronting both,” Mitchell wrote. “I fear this funding will be for naught for many institutions unless the department can act very quickly to make these funds available.”