Harvard secures $9M in coronavirus aid from CARES Act

Among Ivy League universities, Harvard’s aid package was the third-largest

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Harvard University is receiving nearly $9 million in taxpayer aid from the massive economic-relief package passed by Congress at the end of the month, according to Department of Education records.

Under the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund established by the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, Harvard will receive $8.7 million, at least half of which must be reserved for emergency financial grants to students impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to helping cover tuition, the money could be spent on extra technology, food and housing costs.

The remaining balance can go toward costs incurred by Harvard, the wealthiest university in the country, as a result of the outbreak, such as the shift to online classes.

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The aid is part of a nearly $14 billion fund established for higher education by the CARES package, as colleges and universities across the nation have closed their doors and shifted to online learning to contain the virus.

The money is allocated based on the number of full-time Pell Grant recipients and total in-person enrollment before the switch to online classes. The Department of Education weighted the proportion of Pell Grant recipients as a factor at 75 percent, while it weighted in-person enrollment at 25 percent.

Among the Ivy League universities, Harvard’s aid package was the third-largest: Columbia University and Cornell University will receive the most financial help at $12.8 million apiece. The universities receiving the most money through the CARES Act are public universities, with Arizona State University set to receive the biggest grant at $63 million.

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In a letter to university presidents, Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos wrote to consider establishing a maximum funding threshold for each student “to ensure that these funds are distributed as widely as possible,” suggesting they use the maximum Pell Grant award of $6,195 as the threshold.

Harvard in June 2019 had an endowment of close to $41 billion and ended the 2019 fiscal year with a nearly $300 million operating surplus, according to Newsweek.

Last week, Harvard announced that it would freeze salaries, forgo new hires, cancel discretionary spending, delay some capital projects and cut pay for its top administrators. Officials also said they are considering layoffs or furloughs, but have made no official decisions.

"Harvard, like other universities around the world, will not be spared the economic consequences of the pandemic,” Harvard’s top leaders said in a letter to the university community.

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