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CARES Act Formula Hurt Hispanic-Serving Colleges

June 16, 2020

An analysis of the federal formula used to allocate funds from the CARES Act to higher education institutions found that it reinforced inequities for Hispanic students.

Excelencia in Education, an advocacy organization focused on Latinx and Hispanic student success, found that Hispanic-serving institutions, or HSIs, received about $3.5 billion through the CARES Act. In the 2018-19 academic year, 539 HSIs in the U.S. educated nearly two-thirds of Latinx students.

The analysis found that HSIs received less than non-HSIs when counting all enrolled students.

The funding formula used full-time-equivalent enrollment numbers from institutions. So colleges that enroll many part-time students received relatively fewer funds per student than institutions with more full-time students. About half of students at HSIs are enrolled part-time, compared to about one-third of students at non-HSIs.

The full-time measure of the formula resulted in capturing only 66 percent of all students at HSIs. It captured 78 percent of all students at non-HSIs.

For example, using full-time-equivalent enrollment for both Harvard University and San Antonio College, an HSI, shows them each enrolling about 8,000 students. In reality, San Antonio College serves twice as many students as Harvard.

The focus on Pell Grant recipients in the formula hurt some students as well, Excelencia found. Those who worked full-time while enrolled to cover costs, enrolled part-time to save costs or started at a two-year college might not apply for Pell Grants. This disqualifies them from the CARES Act count, even though they might have economic hardships.


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