Harvard University announced in a statement Wednesday that it would not take nearly $9 million in funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act following criticism from President Trump and threats of legislation from Republicans.
“We are concerned that intense focus by politicians and others on Harvard in connection with the program may undermine participation in a relief effort Congress created and the President signed into law for the purpose of helping those whose financial challenges may be most severe,” the school said in a statement, adding that it “did not apply” for the funding.
On Tuesday, the university had defended its allocation of $8.6 million from the federal funding package, saying it had committed “100 percent” of the money “to provide direct assistance to students facing urgent financial needs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
But the decision drew criticism from President Trump and allies, who argued the school did not need the funding with the size of its endowment.
“Harvard is going to pay back the money. They shouldn’t be taking it,” Trump stated during his daily press briefing on Tuesday. “I’m not going to mention any other names, but when I saw Harvard — they have one of the largest endowments anywhere in the country, maybe in the world. They’re going to pay back the money.” He later tweeted “Harvard should give back the money now. Their whole ‘endowment’ system should be looked at!”
Following Stanford’s decision to revoke its funding application, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos suggested Harvard should follow its example.
Kudos to @Stanford for withdrawing its application for #CARESAct funds. As I’ve said since day 1, wealthy institutions like @Harvard don't need this money. They should follow Stanford's lead & embrace the @ShakeShack principle – leave the $$ for those with the greatest need!
— Secretary Betsy DeVos (@BetsyDeVosED) April 22, 2020
Harvard’s funding allocation also drew criticism from Senator Josh Hawley (R., Mo.), who said he would introduce legislation to ban the disbursement of funds “to universities with massive endowments UNLESS and UNTIL those universities actually spend some of those endowments to help their students and cover costs of this emergency.” Representative Jim Jordan, the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, later added he would introduce a companion bill to Hawley’s.