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Colleges in Eastern Missouri and Southern Illinois just landed $108 million in CARES Act stimulus. Will they need more?

The 25 largest colleges and universities in Eastern Missouri and Southern Illinois have been awarded a combined $108.5 million
Credit: SLBJ

ST. LOUIS — The federal government's push to stymie the economic fallout from the coronavirus has directed roughly $1.8 billion in stimulus to dozens of America's wealthiest colleges and universities, even as other emergency programs that support small businesses run dry.

A Business Journals analysis identified 105 colleges and university systems with endowments exceeding $1 billion that were awarded funds through the $2 trillion CARES Act. Collectively, those schools manage endowments valued at around $500 billion, with Harvard University ($39.4 billion), the University of Texas system ($30.1 billion), Yale University ($30.3 billion), Stanford University ($27.7 billion) and Princeton University ($26.1 billion) topping the list of wealthy schools awarded CARES Act support.

CARES ACT ON CAMPUS

The U.S. Department of Education has allotted approximately $663 million in CARES Act stimulus to the 20 colleges and university systems with the largest endowments as of fiscal 2019.

The 25 largest colleges and universities in Eastern Missouri and Southern Illinois have been awarded a combined $108.5 million. The University of Missouri-Columbia received the largest allocation ($16.3 million), followed by Southern Illinois University Edwardsville ($9.7 million), SIU Carbondale ($8.9 million), St. Louis Community College ($8.7 million) and Southeast Missouri State University ($6.8 million).

The award disclosures were made April 14 by the U.S. Department of Education and corresponded with reports that other CARES Act funding, particularly the $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program, was close to being exhausted. The contrasting narratives highlight the speed and potential unintended consequences that have come to define the CARES Act and the federal government's efforts to buffer the country from the coronavirus pandemic.

The DOE report included $12.5 billion in itemized CARES Act allocations for 5,125 U.S. colleges and universities, both public and private. (The list is searchable online, courtesy of the publication Inside Higher Ed.) The program's funding formula was based on each school's full-time equivalent enrollment, with 75% of the funds determined by each school's share of Pell Grant recipients and the remainder based on non-Pell Grant enrollees. Approximately half the funds are to be used by each school in support of student-related financial needs.

The support comes roughly two weeks after the Business Journals reported U.S. colleges and universities were likely to lose roughly $11 billion in revenue through student refunds and related rebates due to the pandemic and subsequent campus closures. The University of Missouri-Columbia alone could lose $107 million in refunds.

Higher education advocates and lobbying groups already are mobilizing to secure a second round of stimulus as schools brace for extended campus closures through the upcoming fall semester. In an April 9 letter addressed to congressional leaders, a consortium of more than 40 college and university groups representing thousands of U.S. schools said the continued financial fallout will require another $46.6 billion in emergency federal support.

Should additional funds be provided, the groups recommended following the same CARES Act formula to ensure a speedy and equitable allotment for all schools in need.

Craig Lindwarm, the vice president for governmental affairs for the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, called the current state of affairs a "double-punch" of falling revenue and rising expenses that has created "emergency conditions" for most colleges. He said many schools have invested heavily in online tools and training to accommodate students, adding that financial pressure for public universities in particular will intensify as state budgets get squeezed by the virus fallout.

His organization was among the dozens to endorse a second round of stimulus in addition to the CARES Act. "We ask that Congress see it (CARES) as a start," Lindwarm said.

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