Department of Education closed an investigation into Morehouse School of Medicine
The Department of Education has closed an investigation into one university’s disbursal of COVID stimulus funds as direct payments to students.
The legal approval will open the door for other higher education institutions to use federal COVID relief funds as cash grants to students.
Morehouse School of Medicine can use money from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act of March 2020 to give funds directly to students, the federal education department said. The Atlanta university originally believed it would take until January for federal officials to review its cash payments program.
“They agreed we have a very sound process,” President Valerie Rice told the Atlanta-Journal Constitution the week before Christmas. “Students will receive a minimum of $4,800 and a maximum of $6,300,” the paper reported.
Morehouse, which is separate from Morehouse College, did not answer questions from The College Fix about the investigation and what legal authority the school had to use the money in the way it did. The university directed The Fix to the Journal Constitution article.
President Rice previously said the grants were meant to “assist each of our currently enrolled, degree-seeking students with additional academic, financial, and mental health support costs such as childcare, food, transportation, housing and healthcare needs.”
The education department guidelines state that money can be used as a refund for “room and board, tuition, and other fees” if the semester is disrupted and students must leave campus. Another section states that money can be used to compensate and smooth a transition during a “disruption of campus operations.”
“[A]dditional emergency financial aid grants to students [are allowed], provided that such emergency financial aid grants are for expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to coronavirus (including eligible expenses under a student’s cost of attendance, such as food, housing, course materials, technology, health care, and child care),” a frequently asked questions page states.
Other universities including Meharry Medical College have used COVID relief funds as cash gifts to students.
Meharry officials gave $10,000 in cash to each of its students. The media relations team did not respond to College Fix questions about if there had been an investigation opened into its use of the taxpayer dollars as gifts to students.
One student said he was glad to receive the money, meant to pay down student loan debt, because now the $10,000 could be used for anything — including “personal enjoyment.”
“It’s motivating,” Andreas Nelson told Kaiser Health News. “Because that means they have trust in us to do with this money whatever the cause may be — whether it be student debt, investing or just personal enjoyment.”
Students at the university graduate with more than $280,000 in loan debt.
Other institutions have given the money to non-American students.
Santa Barbara City College has offered grants to illegal immigrant and international students.
IMAGE: Alexander Mills/Unsplash