U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced Thursday that more than $6 billion will be distributed immediately to colleges and universities nationwide to provide direct emergency cash grants to low-income students whose lives and educations have been disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak.

The funding is available through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed into law by President Donald Trump less than two weeks ago.

The money, DeVos said on a teleconference call, can pay for expense like course material, technology, food, health care, child care and housing.

"We want to get support to those in need," DeVos said during the call with reporters. "For displaced and disrupted college students, we don’t want unmet financial needs to derail learning. We are acting to directly support students."

Under the program, Michigan State University will get a minimum of $14.9 million in emergency funds, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor at least $12.6 million and Wayne State University at least $9.6 million.

“We have seen huge needs in our student population, from housing to food to all sorts of things,” said Dawn Medley, Wayne State's associate vice president for enrollment management. “We have a student emergency fund but that fund has run dry … To have this money and especially the first part of the money to go to student aid is imperative.”

Smaller schools like Oakland Community College will get up to $3.7 million in emergency funds for students, while Macomb Community College will get up to $4.8 million.

A distribution formula for students is weighted by Pell Grant-eligibility, DeVos said, adding that higher-ed institutions will be required to adhere to rules and must first prioritize the most disadvantaged students. Federal Pell Grants are earmarked for college students in great financial need.

In order to access the funds, higher education institutions must give the department a signed certification affirming they will distribute the funds in accordance with applicable law. The college or university will then determine which students will receive the cash grants.

Asked when students will get grant money, DeVos said it's up to the institutions to distribute money but as soon as they sign agreements to distribute, the money is theirs.

"They are intended to help students now. Not months from now," DeVos said.

The CARES Act provides nearly $14 billion to support postsecondary education students and institutions.

Shad Soldano, former representative for the Associated Students of Michigan State University, said on Thursday there are plenty of students still living off-campus in the East Lansing area that will be able to use the emergency grant funds to pay for housing and food.

“The biggest issue is paying rent. They don’t have jobs,” Soldano, an MSU student from Traverse City, said. “They can’t pay the full rent. I’ve heard their apartment complexes are being stubborn with that. Any money would help.”

A full list of universities and colleges receiving funds can be found here.

What Michigan schools get

Emergency financial aid grants to students from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act

•Michigan State University: $14.9 million for students, up to $29.8 million total

•University of Michigan-Ann Arbor: $12.6 million for students, up to $25.2 million total

•Wayne State University: $9.6 million for students, up to $19.3 million total

•Grand Valley State University:$9.1 million for students, up to $18.3 million total

•Western Michigan University: $7.7 million for students, up to $15.4 million total

•Oakland University: $6.8 million for students, up to $13.7 million total

•Eastern Michigan University:$6.8 million for students, up to $13.7 million total

•Macomb Community College: $4.8 million for students, up to $9.6 million total

•Henry Ford College:$4.5 million for students, up to $9.1 million total

•Ferris State University: $4.5 million for students, up to $9.1 million total

•Oakland Community College: $3.7 million for students, up to $7.4 million total

Kim Kozlowski contributed.

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