Last month, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos issued guidelines detailing how colleges should distribute the $6.2 billion they were given through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act meant to ease the financial impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on students. The guidelines notably exclude most international students and all DACA recipients from receiving any emergency aid as they do not qualify for federal student aid. 

At UC Riverside, officials had been planning to award grants to the campus’ estimated 600 DACA recipients until DeVos’ restrictions were announced. In an interview with The Highlander, Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox expressed his disappointment for DeVos’ decision stating, “This is a huge blow to our students economically, and they have pressing needs the CARES money would have helped to address.” He added that UCR will offset the absence of CARES Act aid for undocumented students through the University Student Aid Program (USAP), which is funded through tuition and fees set aside to support undergraduate students in need. 

Courtesy of UCR English Department

Ana Coria, director of Undocumented Students Programs, told The Highlander that this financial support is especially important because undocumented students are ineligible for government safety net programs such as Unemployment Insurance, Medi-Cal or Cal Fresh. She also encouraged students in need to utilize the resources provided by UCR’s Economic Crisis Response Team through Basic Needs which is currently assisting students experiencing urgent financial need.

For UCR’s 1,900 international students, the terms are quite different as most are ineligible for both federal and emergency aid, but are experiencing the same financial burdens as their peers due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In an interview with The Highlander, Magid Shirzadegan, director of International Students and Scholars, stated that although it is never a good feeling to be excluded, he understands where the source of this funding comes from and why it would not apply to international students. Despite this, Shirzadegan acknowledged that UCR still has a responsibility to look after all of its students. He is currently working with Denise Woods-Bevly, the assistant vice chancellor of health, counseling & wellness, to come up with ways to give back to students financially. 

In general, there are not many UCs offering financial assistance, UCSD has done a lot of great work and we are learning from what they have done and trying to do that also,” stated Shirzadegan. International Students and Scholars encourage any students who are struggling to reach out to their office and express their concerns so they can find the best ways to assist them.