NAICU Washington Update

Education Department Considers Changes to CARES Act Student Eligibility Rules

August 27, 2020

The Department of Education has informed a court that the agency is considering making modifications to its interim final rule regarding student eligibility for emergency grants under the CARES Act. The department’s announcement came shortly after the Trump Administration appealed an earlier court ruling that blocked the agency from enforcing its guidance and interim final rule regarding CARES Act eligibility with respect to students at California community colleges.

In June, a federal district court in California issued an injunction that prevented the department from implementing its guidance and regulations with respect to the California community colleges who filed the lawsuit. A separate ruling by a federal district court in the State of Washington also shielded that state’s colleges and universities from the effects of the guidance and regulations, though not with respect to DACA students. 

Under the interim final rule issued June 17, which remains in effect for most of the nation, only students who met the definition of “eligible student” under the Higher Education Act were eligible for the emergency grants.  As a result, DACA students, international students, and several other categories of students have been prohibited from receiving emergency grants under the CARES Act.  The rule also made it necessary for institutions to establish a policy for all students who did not file a FAFSA to prove they met the lengthy list of eligibility requirements for Title IV aid.

In its most recent court filing announcing possible changes to the interim final rule, the Trump Administration asked the appellate court to hold off on considering its appeal until the case is fully resolved in the lower court. However, the substance and timing of potential changes to the rule remains unclear.

In the meantime, a court in Massachusetts, which has prevented the department from enforcing the student eligibility rules against an individual student who filed suit, is considering whether to expand the injunction to cover additional students.

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