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Harvard Rejects US Relief Aid After President Donald Trump Says 'pay That Money Back'

Harvard University has announced that it will turn down USD 8.7 million in federal COVID relief, a day after US prez Trump said they must 'return the money'

Harvard University

Days after US President Donald Trump vowed that the Ivy League college will return the money 'intended for small business loans', Harvard University has announced that it will turn down USD 8.7 million in federal coronavirus relief. It followed similar actions at Stanford and Princeton universities, which said they will reject millions of dollars in federal funding amid growing scrutiny of wealthy colleges. 

Officials at Harvard said that the school still faces significant financial challenges due to the pandemic but will refuse the money over concerns that intense focus by politicians will undermine the relief program created by Congress. "While we understand any reallocation of these resources is a matter for the Department of Education, we hope that special consideration will be given to Massachusetts institutions that are struggling to serve their communities and meet the needs of their students through these difficult and challenging times," Harvard said in a statement. 

Congress is offering USD 14 billion to the nation's colleges and universities as part of a USD 2.2 trillion rescue package.  Schools were allotted varying sums based on their size and the number of students they teach from poorer backgrounds.

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Trump insists Harvard pay back stimulus package

US President Donald Trump has insisted that Harvard, the world's wealthiest university, payback millions it received under a massive government stimulus package meant to cushion the economy from the coronavirus pandemic.

"Harvard, you pay that money back. I want Harvard to pay the money back, ok? And if they don't do that, then we'll do something else," Trump said at his daily briefing on the pandemic on Tuesday. "I don't like it at all. This is meant for workers. This isn't meant for one of the richest institutions ... in the world," the billionaire president continued.

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'Harvard committed to spending its entire share on students'

Harvard had previously committed to spending its entire share on students, and on Wednesday said it is fully committed to providing the financial support that it has promised to its students.  It also said the evolving guidance around the funding factored into its decision.  More than 300 colleges were granted larger shares than Harvard, including some that also rank among the nation's wealthiest. 

Stanford, which has an endowment of nearly USD 28 billion, said it told the Education Department on Monday it would refuse USD 7.4 million allocated in the package.  The school said it wanted to free the funding to be directed to smaller colleges that now face an existential threat because of the pandemic.  Stanford says it's still fully committed to providing financial relief to students. 

READ | Harvard says it will keep $8.6 mn relief fund after Trump vows 'money will be returned'

Officials at Princeton said they will reject USD 2.4 million in aid, but not because of the pressure from DeVos.  The school said it made the decision after the Education Department issued new guidelines forbidding the funding from going to students in the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program for immigrants who were brought to the country illegally.  The school, which has a USD 26 billion endowment, said the rules were inconsistent with Princeton's values. 

The University of Southern California, which had an endowment of USD 5.7 billion last year, was allotted nearly USD 20 million. Columbia University, with an endowment of USD 11 billion, was allotted nearly USD 13 million. Major public universities received many of the largest shares, including Arizona State University, which was granted USD 63.5 million, and the Pennsylvania State University system, with USD 55 million. 

(inputs from AP)

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