Harvard University said on Wednesday it will not take the $8.6 million stimulus allocation offered to them as part of the massive $2.2 trillion CARES Act, approved by U.S congress to ease the financial burden of many of America’s businesses in the wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement, the school said;
“We are also concerned, however, that the intense focus by politicians and others on Harvard in connection with this program may undermine participation in a relief effort that Congress created and the president signed into law for the purpose of helping students and institutions whose financial challenges in the coming months may be most severe.”
“As a result of this, and the evolving guidance being issued around use of the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, Harvard has decided not to seek or accept the funds allocated to it by statute,” the statement said.
The controversy unfolded after President Trump cited Harvard’s ample endowment – worth nearly $41 billion – as the reason why it should not have the money.
Harvard was valued at $40.9 billion as of June 2019, according to Forbes.
Following President Trump’s remarks, Harvard, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said it intended to use the money for direct assistance to needy students.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos piled on pressure in a statement on Wednesday.
“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.
At a press briefing shortly after Harvard issued the statement, President Trump hailed the decision by Harvard and Stanford University, which rescinded its application for relief funds on Monday, according to a university statement. Princeton University has also said it would not take the funding.
“They’re not accepting the money and that is great, so I want to thank Harvard, I want to thank Stanford,” Trump said.
But not all universities are turning down the offer. The University of Notre Dame put out a statement on Wednesday pledging that all federal funding for the school tied to coronavirus relief would be used exclusively for financial aid to students whose families have been hurt by the pandemic.