Senate bill would ease rules on returning student aid

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As many colleges and universities head into uncharted territory in addressing concerns over the coronavirus, Senate Democrats have introduced a bill to relieve students from paying back their Pell grants and student loans when college is disrupted.

The bill introduced Friday by Sens. Patty Murray (D-Washington), Chuck Schumer (D-New York) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) also would provide $1.2 billion in emergency grants to colleges to cover unexpected expenses related to basic needs created by college closures and coronavirus-related disruptions. The grants of up to $1,500 per qualifying student would cover food, housing, child care, transportation, health care and a one-time cost of buying a computer or an internet connection.

“These grants can help create or expand existing emergency financial aid programs at many institutions of higher education across the country,” according to a summary of the Supporting Students in Response to Coronavirus Act.

Several higher education organizations, including the American Association of Community Colleges, last week noted concerns over student aid requirements, especially ones pertaining to repayment of grants and loans if students could no longer attend college as a result of the coronavirus. The bill would temporarily exempt students from paying back Pell grants or student loans during a disrupted term as required under the so-called “Return of Title IV” rules. It would also temporarily relax rules pertaining to students who receive financial aid to make satisfactory academic progress.

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
is editor of Community College Daily and serves as publications director for the American Association of Community Colleges.