Section: News

DACA students excluded from federal relief bill

On March 27, President Trump signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) act, a bipartisan bill that allocates $2.2 trillion of federal funding toward mitigating the health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Of that funding, $6.2 billion is emergency financial aid allocated to helping college students whose lives have been disrupted by the country-wide closure of campuses.

However, it has recently come to light that not all students will be eligible for these grants — students who are in the country without documentation, including those who are part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, will not be eligible to receive this emergency funding. 

DACA, a policy signed into law in 2012 by President Obama, offers conditional amnesty to immigrants (“dreamers”) brought into the country illegally at a young age. Provided they remain in good legal standing and renew their DACA status every two years, these individuals can defer their deportation indefinitely, and can gain a permit to work in the United States. However, dreamers have no easy path to permanent citizenship, and certain benefits available to US citizens, such as federal financial aid, remain unobtainable. 

According to a press statement released by the Department of Education, students who receive CARES funding must be eligible for federal aid under Title IV of the Higher Education Act. This excludes students who entered the country illegally, even those who are permitted to live and work in the US under DACA. 

Many people have criticized the decision to exclude DACA students, as it puts increased strain on a demographic already affected heavily by the pandemic. Terry Hartle, the American Council on Education’s senior vice president for government and public affairs, said that the decision will only make the process more confusing and difficult for colleges looking to help their students. Other figures, such as Department of Education Press Secretary Angela Morabito, have defended the decision as being consistent with federal law.

The impact this will have on Kenyon has yet to be seen. Vice President for Finance Todd Burson declined to comment on how many DACA students are enrolled at Kenyon, and what effects this decision might have on them. 

“Everything is very fluid at the moment,” Burson wrote in an email to the Collegian. “We are still gathering information and guidance from the federal government on the proper use of the CARES Act funding so I have no other information that I can share at this time.”


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