COVID Relief Bill Includes $ 82 Billion for Education: Significant Financial Aid Policy Changes Included in Bill | Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP
Whether in a third-year classroom, on a community college campus, or in the most advanced university research lab, it’s fair to say that the 2020 fall semester was unlike anything we’ve seen. before.
As the country scrambled to adapt to the pandemic in mid-March, the country’s educational enterprise rushed to change basic teaching principles that had been in place, in many cases, for over. of a century. Virtual learning, long considered a complementary approach, has become a main educational tool. Teachers donned PPE and reconfigured their classrooms, looking to find ways to connect with students between frequent closures due to outbreaks. Perhaps most difficult, even though these structural and pedagogical changes have occurred, serious disruptions in the financial models of primary and secondary education have occurred.
Amid this tumultuous backdrop, K-12 schools, colleges and universities across the country received an early Christmas giveaway in the form of $ 82 billion embedded in the 5,500-page COVID relief program adopted by Congress on December 21 and signed by the president on Sunday.
The higher education and financial aid components of the bill are important, with $ 22.7 billion allocated to higher education, distributed according to a formula directly to institutions. Inside higher education points out that the formula used for distribution is unclear and may not correspond directly to the methods of the Higher Education Emergency Aid Fund used under the CARES Act; 50% of funds received by higher education institutions must be used for emergency aid. The bill also creates an emergency governor’s education fund, allocating $ 4 billion to each state with the aim of “providing emergency support” to K-12 districts or educational institutions. ‘Higher Education.
While the direct tax components of higher education measures will certainly receive the most attention, significant changes in student aid policy are adopted in the bill, including the simplification of the Free Application for Federal Student. Aid (FAFSA) long sought by Senator Lamar Alexander. (R-Tennessee). The FAFSA, long decried as a barrier to university access due to its list of invasive questions, will be reduced from its current battery of 108 questions to just 36. This more concise app will continue to serve as the primary channel for all. student aid, including direct subsidized loans.
Additionally, the legislation includes a significant change in the methodology used to award the full amount of the Pell Scholarship to low-income students, allowing students to qualify not only based on their expected family contribution levels (students with a EFC’s of zero will currently receive the full Pell scholarship of just over $ 6,000), but also based on a comparison of their family income with the federal poverty level.
In the K-12 arena, this legislation expands and revisits much of the same education aid territory included in the CARES law passed last spring and specifies the following allocations:
- $ 57 billion for K-12 schools, the large majority 90% of which will go directly to school districts. The main permitted uses include:
- Tackling ‘learning loss’ among students: Many education policy makers fear that the cumulative disruption of the spring and fall semesters and the resulting e-learning challenges will lead to a dramatic drop in educational outcomes. student results.
- Purchase of educational technologies that “facilitate regular and substantial educational interaction between students and their teachers in the classroom”.
- Modifications to school facilities, focused on improving indoor air quality