Undocumented students have been left out of getting emergency grants in Congress’s previous coronavirus relief bills. Whether they will be able to get help in the next round of aid appears to be headed to the Biden administration to decide.
The House’s $1.9 trillion relief bill continued to move toward passage by the full body today. But stripped for procedural reasons was a provision approved by the House’s education committee, which would have left it up to colleges and universities to decide which of their students are eligible for the grants to help with costs like food and housing.
The provision would have been a departure from the previous relief bills, which left it up to the Education Department to decide who is eligible. Betsy DeVos, education secretary during the Trump administration, had said that undocumented and international students are not eligible.
As written, the latest package, should it pass Congress, would leave it up to the Education Department, now under the Biden administration, to decide. Biden has been supportive of undocumented students brought illegally to the U.S. as children. But DeVos had argued that giving the grants to undocumented and international students would violate a federal law barring noncitizens from getting federal aid.
An Education spokeswoman was noncommittal Thursday and said the department is studying the issue. “Our new leadership team is currently conducting a review of ongoing enforcement and litigation to understand the positions the agency has taken and identify areas where we may or may not want to take a different posture,” the spokeswoman said.
The bill would provide another $40 billion in coronavirus relief funds to higher education. It also includes some policy changes Democrats have sought. It would, for example, no longer allow for-profit institutions to count GI Bill dollars toward a federal requirement to have at least 10 percent of their revenue not come from federal dollars. Critics have long pushed for the change, saying that counting the money toward meeting the requirement gives for-profits incentive to target, and sometimes defraud, veterans and service members.