Harvard University Says It Won’t Take Federal Stimulus Money

Date: 2020-04-23 20:37:09

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Harvard University, the richest U.S. college, said it won’t accept federal stimulus funds after a barrage of criticism, including from President Donald Trump.

The U.S. government’s $2 trillion stimulus to combat the effects of coronavirus lockdowns across the country provided about $12.5 billion in direct aid for all colleges. Distribution of the funds was determined by a formula that meant some of the wealthiest institutions were eligible for millions of dollars in aid.

Harvard said Wednesday it didn’t apply for the support, nor has it requested, received or accessed the funds.

“We are also concerned, however, that the intense focus by politicians and others on Harvard in connection with this program may undermine participation in a relief effort that Congress created and the president signed into law for the purpose of helping students and institutions whose financial challenges in the coming months may be most severe,” the school said in a statement.

Also Wednesday, Princeton University and Stanford University said they wouldn’t accept the government funds.

Trump said at a White House briefing on Wednesday evening that he was “pleased” that the universities would not accept the money. “There’s a certain amount of money that we are not sending,” the president added.

Under the federal plan, the money will be distributed based on a formula of schools’ low-income population, who receive Pell Grants, as well as the total number of students who do not get the aid.

That calculation meant Harvard was eligible to receive $8.7 million, a little more than $8.3 million available to nearby Bunker Hill Community College, according to federal data.

“As a result of this, and the evolving guidance being issued around use of the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, Harvard has decided not to seek or accept the funds allocated to it by statute,” the school said.

In addition to Trump’s criticism of Harvard, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said Wednesday that “wealthy institutions that do not primarily serve low-income students do not need or deserve additional taxpayer funds.”

Higher education is facing months of turmoil as a result of lockdowns in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Schools are closed and unsure of when they can reopen, and many have given refunds and cut money-making programs, imperiling their future.

The schools with the largest endowments are among the most generous with financial aid, offering grants that don’t need to be paid back. Many of the same schools are also paying taxes on their endowments for the first time, a change that came into effect as part of the December 2017 tax overhaul.

Late Tuesday evening, Trump posted on Twitter that Harvard should “give back the money now.” He did not say if he meant the $8.7 million.

“Their whole ‘endowment’ system should be looked at,” the president added. The most recent public value of Harvard’s endowment was $40.9 billion as of June.

Brown University, with an endowment of $4.2 billion, the smallest among the eight Ivy League colleges, is slated to receive about half as much as Harvard; it enrolls roughly 3,000 full-time equivalent graduate students, a sliver of Harvard’s grad school population, according to federal data.

The public Arizona State University is in line for the largest allocation, $63.5 million, partly because of its size and enrollment of Pell Grant recipients, according to federal data.

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