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Biden Administration Providing COVID Aid to Undocumented Students

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The Biden administration announced it will allow undocumented and international college students to access pandemic aid, reversing the Trump-era policy preventing them from accessing federal college assistance.

The Department of Education’s new rules would allow undocumented immigrant students — including refugees, asylum seekers, and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) recipients — to receive COVID relief aid as long as they are enrolled at a college.

Beginning with tuition, room, and board, students can use the grant for any college costs that arise due to the pandemic including health care (as well as mental health care) and child care.

The department argued that requiring students to demonstrate eligibility for emergency aid would “create unnecessary delays in providing needed assistance to desperate students.” However, institutions are requested to ensure that funds go to students who have “exceptional need.”

“In their capacity as students, undocumented persons, like all postsecondary students, pursue degrees, obtain employment commensurate with their educational attainment and in doing so contribute to the greater good of the economy and society as a whole,” the department said. 

Requirements for the Grant

Students enrolled in higher education institutions no later than March 13, 2020 — the exact date when the US declared coronavirus a national emergency — are eligible for emergency financial aid grants, regardless of whether or not they submitted a FAFSA.

That said, schools will prioritize students with extraordinary financial circumstances, such as those who receive Pell Grants. 

Beyond Pell eligibility, students who qualify for other federal or state need-based aid or have faced other unexpected expenses, such as unemployment or food and housing insecurity, would also be prioritized. The move will also include students enrolled in distance education.

Institutions should be careful about how they prioritize vulnerable students as “the Department is exploring reporting requirements regarding the distribution of emergency financial aid grants.”

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