AskRegs Update: Must a Student Be Title IV-Eligible To Receive a Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund Grant?

Must a Student Be Title IV-Eligible To Receive a Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund Grant?

This AskRegs Knowledgebase Q&A has been updated to reflect the U.S. Department of Education's (ED's) May 21, 2020 statement that it would not enforce the Title IV eligibility guidance in its April 21, 2020 Frequently Asked Questions about the Emergency Financial Aid Grants to Students under Section 18004 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act because it lacks “the force and effect of law” and ED “will not initiate any enforcement action based solely on these statements.”

The May 21 statement does not appear to extend eligibility to undocumented students, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students, and international students because, according to ED, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (1996 welfare reform law) prohibits these students from receiving federal public benefits, such as grants.

According to the April 21st Frequently Asked Questions:

“Only students who are or could be eligible to participate in programs under Section 484 in Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (HEA), may receive emergency financial aid grants. If a student has filed a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), then the student has demonstrated eligibility to participate in programs under Section 484 the HEA. Students who have not filed a FAFSA but who are eligible to file a FAFSA also may receive emergency financial aid grants. The criteria to participate in programs under Section 484 of the HEA include but are not limited to the following: U.S. citizenship or eligible noncitizen; a valid Social Security number; registration with Selective Service (if the student is male); and a high school diploma, GED, or completion of high school in an approved homeschool setting.”

Under the May 21st statement, this Title IV eligibility provision still applies, but ED will not enforce it. Going forward, the school will need to develop or change its policy with this in mind and consult with its legal counsel to assess the risk of any policy it adopts. Also, ED has indicated there will be further guidance.

To be a Title IV-eligible student under Section 484 of the HEA, the student must:

  • Be enrolled or accepted for enrollment in a degree, certificate or other recognized educational credential (including a program of study abroad approved for credit by the eligible institution at which such student is enrolled)--that is, a regular student under 34 CFR 600.2);
  • Not be enrolled in elementary or secondary school and have a high school diploma or its recognized equivalent;
  • Be maintaining satisfactory academic progress (SAP) if the student is a currently enrolled student;
  • Not owe an overpayment (refund) on Title IV grants;
  • Not be in default on a Title IV loan;
  • File with ED “as part of the original financial aid application process” a certification (Statement of Educational Purpose) that includes:
    • A statement of educational purpose, and
    • The student’s Social Security Number (SSN);
  • Be a U.S citizen or national, a permanent resident, or an eligible noncitizen;
  • Have returned any fraudulently obtained Title IV funds, if the student is convicted of or pled guilty or no contest to charges;
  • Not have fraudulently received Title IV loans in excess of annual or aggregate limits;
  • Have repaid any Title IV loan overpayment amounts in excess of annual or aggregate limits, if obtained inadvertently;
  • Have his Selective Service registration verified (the Title IV aid ineligibility for failure to register is actually in the Selective Service Act §3811(f));
  • Have a valid SSN, except for residents of the Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands, or the Republic of Palau; and
  • Not have a federal or state conviction for drug possession or sale, with certain time limitations.

Keep in mind the following considerations:

  • While ED’s guidance does state that a FAFSA is not required, having one on file would be the only practicable way for an institution to determine that a student is eligible to participate in the Title IV federal student aid programs and meets all applicable general student eligibility criteria in Section 484 of the HEA. Without having a FAFSA on file, the school would need to verify that a student meets all of the Title IV eligibility criteria.
  • We cannot say that a prior-year FAFSA is acceptable, because a prior year’s FAFSA will not have updated default and overpayment information, Statement of Educational Purpose, etc.
    • We hope that a prior-year FAFSA would be acceptable, but the school will have to use its own judgment pending any further ED guidance.
  • We cannot answer whether verification would be required, but it is our understanding that verification would not be required because: 1) HEERF grants are not need-based funds under the CARES Act; and 2) verification is not a general student eligibility requirement under Section 484 of the HEA. However, the V4 and V5 Verification Tracking Groups include re-submission of the Statement of Educational Purpose, which is in Section 484.
  • We cannot answer whether a student can self-certify that he, she, or they meet all of the eligibility criteria in Section 484 of the HEA.

Beyond the Above Considerations: The school retains discretion over awarding Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) student grants and needs to make its own decisions on how it determined which students did or will receive the grants, as well as how much funding they did or will receive. See AskRegs Knowledgebase Q&A, What Are the Reporting Requirements For Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund Grants To Students?

The Recipient’s Funding Certification and Agreement for Emergency Financial Aid Grants to Students, requires institutions to comply with "all applicable laws including non-discrimination laws" when determining who will receive the emergency grants, such as the 1996 welfare reform law mentioned above.

If and when ED issues further guidance, we will update this AskRegs Knowledgebase Q&A and include it in our Coronavirus (COVID-19) Web Center, as well as in Today’s News.

If you are a NASFAA member, you can submit additional questions through the AskRegs Knowledgebase. Our experts will thoroughly research your question and provide you a comprehensive answer, including any applicable regulatory citations. That question and answer may then be added (without identifying information) as appropriate to further expand the Knowledgebase Q&A library.


Publication Date: 4/22/2020

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