This story was originally published by Chalkbeat, a nonprofit news organization covering public education. Sign up for their newsletters here: ckbe.at/newsletters
By Jason Gonzales, Chalkbeat Colorado
Federal assistance meant to lessen the economic blow of COVID-19 on Colorado’s colleges isn’t fully meeting the needs of their neediest students and comes with restrictions that limit the ability of schools to shore up finances, say school leaders.
In particular, the regulations put institutions that serve large numbers of part-time students at a disadvantage.
“The whole implementation of the CARES Act has really not been very good,” said Heidi Markey, Adams State University’s financial aid director, talking about the coronavirus relief bill.
In total, the state’s institutions received $173.3 million from the CARES Act — $144.5 million for public institutions and $28.8 million for privately operated schools.
Schools must allocate half the money to students. And the half for institutions carries restrictions.
The reporting measures allow little flexibility for schools in how they can spend money and create disparities in how students get money. And the U.S. Department of Education guidance restricts student eligibility and excludes institutions that serve high numbers of part-time students.
“The way it sounded was it was almost too good to be true: Here’s the bill, here’s the money, now go out and use it,” said Cheryl Lovell, Adams State University president. “And then it went through the process of getting guidance and regulations (from the U.S. Department of Education) and it kind of narrowed the focus quite a bit.”