Can Undocumented, DACA, and International Students Receive HEERF I or HEERF II Funds?

KA-34774 Helpfulness Rating 1,473 page views

This AskRegs Knowledgebase Q&A was updated on January 22, 2021 to reflect requirements under the 2021 Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA, Section 314 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021). While in different forms of guidance, the same restriction applies to both Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) grants under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) (HEERF I funds) and to new funds under the CRRSAA (HEERF II funds).

HEERF II Funds Under the CRRSAA
Unlike HEERF I, enrolled students do not have to be Title IV-eligible students to receive HEERF II funds. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) has confirmed that the June 17, 2020 Interim Final Rule and Title IV general student eligibility criteria under Section 484 in Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (HEA) [20 USC 1091(a)] do not apply when awarding HEERF II funds. However, a Trump administration official with ED has stated verbally that ED believes undocumented, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and international students are not eligible for HEERF II funds under 8 USC 1611(a) of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, which prohibits certain noncitizens from receiving federal public benefits. The Certification and Agreement for HEERF II student grants states the school “must comply with the provisions of all applicable acts, regulations, and assurances…."

It is important to note that ED has not issued written guidance to clarify whether or not this means undocumented, DACA, or international students may receive HEERF II funds, nor have any Biden administration officials announced a change in policy position. If NASFAA receives more definitive guidance, especially in light of the Biden administration transition, we will post it in Today’s News, in our COVID-19 Web Center, and in the AskRegs Knowledgebase.

In the meantime, if and how a school determines the citizenship of a student when awarding HEERF II student grant funds is at the discretion of the school. Potential institutional considerations may range from: 1) the school feels that it needs to confirm the citizenship of each recipient; to 2) the school assumes that students are citizens unless the school knows differently; to 3) the school asks students to self-certify their citizenship status. There isn't clear guidance from ED on this point, so your school's policy should be based on the school’s own risk assessment after consulting with its legal counsel. 

HEERF I Funds Under the CARES Act
According to ED's Frequently Asked Questions about the Emergency Financial Aid Grants to Students under Section 18004 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act published on April 21, 2020, "Only students who are or could be eligible to participate in programs under Section 484 in Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (HEA), may receive emergency financial aid grants. If a student has filed a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), then the student has demonstrated eligibility to participate in programs under Section 484 the HEA. Students who have not filed a FAFSA but who are eligible to file a FAFSA also may receive emergency financial aid grants. The criteria to participate in programs under Section 484 of the HEA include but are not limited to the following: U.S. citizenship or eligible noncitizen; a valid Social Security number; registration with Selective Service (if the student is male); and a high school diploma, GED, or completion of high school in an approved homeschool setting." Reference also the general student eligibility requirements under 34 CFR 668.32.

This made undocumented students, DACA students, and international students ineligible for HEERF I grants. The above guidance was later codified in the June 17, 2020 Interim Final Rule.

Note: This AskRegs Q&A was previously updated to reflect a change in NASFAA's understanding on this issue as a result of the U.S. Department of Education's (ED's) Frequently Asked Questions about the Emergency Financial Aid Grants to Students under Section 18004 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act published on April 21, 2020. NASFAA’s previous understanding was based on a strict reading of the CARES Act, as passed by the President on March 27, 2020.

AskRegs Q&As represent NASFAA's understanding of regulatory and compliance issues. They are FOR INTERNAL USE ONLY. While NASFAA believes AskRegs Q&As are accurate and factual, they have not been reviewed or approved by the U.S. Department of Education (ED). If you should need written confirmation of AskRegs information for audit or program review purposes, please contact your ED School Participation Division. NASFAA shall not be liable for technical or editorial errors or omissions contained herein; nor for incidental or consequential damages resulting from the furnishing, performance, or use of this material.