Harvard University could receive more than $25 million from the recent COVID economic relief plan passed by Congress, but university officials haven’t yet decided whether to accept the money.
Harvard last April decided against applying for $8.6 million in emergency relief, part of a previous stimulus package, after then-President Donald Trump scolded the world’s richest college about accessing the taxpayer money.
On Tuesday, Harvard, which has an endowment worth $42 billion, had not made decision on this new round of relief funds.
“The university is reviewing the legislation and its implementation at this time,” Jason Newton, a spokesman, said in a statement.
President Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan includes nearly $40 billion to be divided among universities and their students. The money is designed to help institutions that have been hit hard this academic year by lost revenue from shuttered dorms and increased costs, due to COVID testing and implementing other safety measures. Many students are facing job losses that have made it difficult to pay their tuition bills, and increased food insecurity.
The US Department of Education has yet to issue final guidelines on how the money should be spent and each university’s allocation. But the American Council on Education, a Washington, D.C., trade group that lobbied for higher education stimulus funds, has run estimates based on the parameters set up in the final federal legislation.
The group estimates that public and private colleges in Massachusetts will get a total of $824.3 million, including $25.5 million for Harvard. Northeastern University will get an estimated $33.7 million, Boston University could get $41.6 million, and the four undergraduate campuses of the University of Massachusetts system could receive $132.8 million.
The allocation of money is based on the number of students enrolled, both full and part-time, and weighted heavily toward how many low-income students colleges educate.
Under the formula, Harvard will get less money than Bunker Hill Community College ($31.3 million) but nearly as much as Bridgewater State University ($25.3 million).
Wealthy colleges have been criticized for accepting stimulus money during the pandemic. In late December, the COVID relief package passed by Congress earmarked $22.7 billion for colleges and universities, but cut in half the amount that universities with large endowments could receive. Many of the country’s wealthiest schools at the time declined that money, including Harvard.
Last spring, President Trump said during a press conference that Harvard was going to “pay back” the money and that “they shouldn’t be taking it.”
In announcing that it would not seek the aid, Harvard at the time said it was concerned “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.”
The controversy prompted other wealthy colleges to also opt out of the relief package.