Harvard rejects Trump demand to pay back aid
Harvard University has pushed back against US President Donald Trump after he demanded it pay back nearly $9m (£7.3m) in coronavirus relief aid.
Harvard University announced Wednesday it will turn down $8.7m in federal coronavirus relief, a day after Donald Trump excoriated the wealthy Ivy League school over taxpayer money it stood to receive.
It followed similar actions at Stanford and Princeton universities, which said they, too, will reject millions of dollars in federal funding amid growing scrutiny of wealthy colleges.
Officials at Harvard said the school still faces significant financial challenges due to the pandemic but will refuse the money over concerns that “intense focus by politicians” will undermine the relief program created by Congress.
Harvard became the lightning rod in this debate, as its $40 billion endowment is the largest of any academic institution in the world. Yet the Harvard Crimson reported last week that the elite university in Cambridge, Mass. was receiving almost $9 million in funding from CARES Act, which critics including President Trump say should be earmarked for smaller businesses and schools.
In a statement that followed, Harvard acknowledged receiving its $8.6m through the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (Cares) Act that Mr Trump signed last month.
But Harvard did not say it would pay the money back.
The college tweeted: “Harvard has committed that 100% of these emergency higher education funds will be used to provide direct assistance to students facing urgent financial needs due to the Covid-19 pandemic.”
“Harvard is going to pay back the money. They shouldn’t be taking it,” Trump said during his daily press briefing on Tuesday. “I’m not going to mention any other names, but when I saw Harvard — they have one of the largest endowments anywhere in the country, maybe in the world. They’re going to pay back the money.”
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Wednesday said other rich schools should reject the funding.
Affluent schools that do not primarily serve low-income students “do not need or deserve additional taxpayer funds”, she said in a statement.
“Schools with large endowments should not apply for funds so more can be given to students who need support the most. It’s also important for Congress to change the law to make sure no more taxpayer funds go to elite, wealthy institutions,” she said.
Stanford, which has an endowment of nearly $28bn, said it told the Education Department on Monday it would refuse $7.4m allocated in the package. Officials at Princeton also said they will reject $2.4m in aid.