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California Community Colleges Sue Federal Government Over Emergency Relief For Students

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Glendale Community College, before the coronavirus crisis. (Adolfo Guzman-Lopez/LAist)
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The California Community Colleges system has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Education challenging the federal government’s decision to deny emergency aid to DACA recipients, international students and other enrollees.

California college students are beginning to receive their share of millions of dollars in stimulus funds sent to their campuses through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF), a part of the CARES Act.

But in a lawsuit filed Monday in federal district court in San Francisco, California Community Colleges said the emergency relief “arbitrarily (places) eligibility restrictions on emergency relief funds that Congress intended to help students defray additional educational costs resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, which exclude hundreds of thousands of students, including undocumented students, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) recipients, and many students who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents.”

In a statement issued last month, Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley said the CARES Act “provides colleges with significant discretion on how to award this emergency aid to students.”

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The lawsuit argues that “Congress provided higher education institutions with unfettered flexibility to distribute the relief to affected students as they deemed appropriate, imposing no eligibility limitations on this emergency relief for students,” and that the restrictions placed by the U.S. Department of Education are unconstitutional.

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