Emergency federal funding for higher education is coming directly to City College of San Francisco students, but federal rules prohibit undocumented students from receiving any aid.
This week, CCSF received $7 million of the $14 billion reserved for higher education from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. Half of the aid is required to go directly to students, which means CCSF’s neediest 2,600 students will soon receive $1,309 each, officials said.
But under guidelines from the U.S. Department of Education, undocumented students are not eligible for such aid. The CARES Act includes no such language but Education Secretary Betsy DeVos allowed only U.S. citizens and some legal permanent residents who qualify for financial aid to receive stimulus funding.
“To me, this is just another in a series of the Trump administration’s use of young undocumented people and [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] recipients as political pawns,” said Tom Temprano, who sits on the CCSF Board of Trustees. “We have a moral obligation to advocate for those students.”
The Board of Trustees on Thursday unanimously cosponsored and approved a resolution introduced by Temprano that urges DeVos to allow colleges to use CARES Act aid on all students regardless of immigration status.
CCSF does not track the immigration status of students. The college does estimate that based on who accesses the program Voices of Immigrants Demonstrating Achievement and the immigration resource center City DREAM, it has about 500 undocumented students, according to spokesperson Rachel Howard.
More than 330 teachers through the United Educators of San Francisco have pledged to donate more than $100,000 of their stimulus checks from the CARES Act to undocumented families through UndocuFund. The City has dispersed about $6 million, while California will contribute $75 million to 150,000 undocumented families.
Nonprofits like Coleman Advocates and Mission Economic Development Agency have also stepped in, with the latter distributing $100,000 to 100 undocumented families in San Francisco. The state is estimated by the Public Policy Insitute of California to have more than two million undocumented immigrants.
The aid will help CCSF, but it’s not clear how much room it can make to provide aid for undocumented students outside of the CARES Act. CCSF has spent at least $121,000 on emergency coronavirus expenses like laptops since March.
The college is projected to have a $12.8 million deficit for the current academic year, not including legal fees for the departure of Chancellor Mark Rocha or consulting fees for an interim chancellor. That would put the reserve balance at a negative of $2.7 million, not including the $8 million minimum required for the reserves.
The Board of Trustees will consider whether to spend $3 million of the required reserve at its May 28 meeting.
San Francisco State will receive $28.7 million, half of which will also go to emergency financial aid for students as required, said spokesperson Kent Bravo. The federal department allocated $867,000 to University of California San Francisco, $7.3 million to University of San Francisco, $283,000 to the San Francisco Art Institute, $249,000 to San Francisco Conservatory of Music, $34,000 to the San Francisco Film School, and $291,000 to the San Francisco Institute of Esthetics and Cosmetology.