LVRJ: Titus requests surplus aid dollars for Nevada schools

May 6, 2020
In The News

Rep. Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, urged the Trump administration Monday to redirect unaccepted coronavirus aid money to other institutions in Nevada with large numbers of minority students seeking more financial assistance.

The $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package passed by Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump last month included $14 billion in funds for higher education.

About 90 percent of that money was to be distributed directly to institutions, with half to students in need of financial assistance.

Several large institutions with endowments, like Harvard, declined to accept the assistance.

“Harvard did not apply for this support, nor has it requested, received or accessed these funds,” according to a statement released by the university. It requested those funds be distributed to other institutions in Massachusetts.

Princeton, Stanford and other universities also declined the assistance.

In a letter Monday to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Titus urged the administration to redirect those funds to institutions with large minority student populations.

Titus said the Education Department has an “opportunity to deliver on its message of ensuring funds go to students and schools most in need by sending the rejected aid to Minority Serving Institutions in Nevada and across the country.”

Nevada schools qualify

Titus said the department has emphasized that students and schools most affected by the coronavirus outbreak should be the priority for the relief funding.

A former UNLV political science professor, Titus said schools that fit that criteria include UNLV, the College of Southern Nevada, Nevada State College, Truckee Meadows Community College and Western Nevada College.

UNLV President Marta Meana said in a statement to the Review-Journal that Southern Nevada has been hard hit economically by the pandemic “and many of our students and their families are having to make tough choices.”

She said UNLV is one of the most diverse higher-ed institutions in the country. About one third of the university’s enrollment is made up of first-generation students.

“Any additional assistance would be a tremendous help,” Meana said. “The funds could be applied to students in need of financial aid to continue pursuing their degrees.”

Chancellor Thom Reilly with the Nevada System of Higher Education said many of the students in the state are not only attending college, but also balancing part-time and full-time jobs.

“Unfortunately, many are feeling the strain as the pandemic has caused extraordinary job loss in Nevada,” Reilly said.

Assessing the options

The Department of Education is weighing its decision on redirecting the funds not accepted by the larger institutions with endowments.

“Given how Congress wrote the law, we are currently assessing our options for redirecting this money that goes either unclaimed or returned by institutions,” said Angela Morabito, the Education Department press secretary.

Last week, DeVos announced that $1.4 billion, or roughly 7.5 percent, of the $14 billion earmarked for higher education in the coronavirus relief act, would go to Minority Serving Institutions, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities.

DeVos said the administration was committed to the success of minority serving colleges and institutions “and the students they serve.”

“I encourage these institutions, like all others, to use these funds to provide emergency grants to students during this challenging time,” DeVos said.

Titus said it would be unacceptable if the funding that has been turned away by large universities was not redirected, particularly to higher education institutions with large minority student populations that have “urgently expressed that they need further relief.”