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BYU-Idaho refuses $18 million in federal aid

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REXBURG — Brigham Young University-Idaho is refusing some $18 million in federal aid aimed at helping students impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The funding is part of the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security or CARES Act, which the federal government passed in March. Idaho has been allocated nearly $56 million to be spread among its private and public colleges and universities. At least half the money given to each university is earmarked to be given directly to students as financial aid, according to the United States Department of Education.

But on Monday, BYU-Idaho, which stood to receive the largest allocation in the state, sent an email to students saying the university would not be accepting any funds from the CARES Act.

“At this time, the university is prepared to meet the needs of our students without accessing these federal funds. Therefore, BYU–Idaho has decided not to accept any part of the funds allocated to the university. The Department of Education has been notified of this decision,” the letter states.

It’s unclear if the decision was made by BYU-Idaho itself, or by the Church Educational System, which oversees the university for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

All of the other universities owned by the church, including BYU in Provo, Utah, BYU-Hawaii and LDS Business College (soon to be Ensign College), are not accepting federal aid either.

CES spokesman Sam Penrod and BYU-Idaho spokesman Brett Crandall declined to comment beyond the message sent to students.

The email encourages students to contact the school’s financial aid department if they need help. The letter also touts the many on-campus employment options offered by the university and its low cost of education.

“BYU–Idaho is committed to providing a high-quality educational experience to our students. Thanks to the support of our sponsor, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are able to keep our tuition low,” according to the email.

Notice sent to students.

Other Idaho schools

All the state universities in Idaho have said they will be using the federal funding. The money given to each school is based on student enrollment. After BYU-Idaho, Boise State University is slated to receive the second-largest amount, $10,937,516.

Local universities are coming up with plans on how to distribute the money to students.

Idaho State University, which is receiving $7,097,839, plans to distribute its funds based primarily on the Expected Family Contribution as calculated in each student’s FAFSA.

A full-time ISU student with $0 Estimated Family Contribution could receive $550.

ISU spokesman Andrew Taylor said 5,294 ISU students received CARES Act aid through the school for the 2020 Spring Semester, which is close to $1.9 million out of the $7.1 million the school received. At least 3.5 million of ISU’s funds will ultimately need to be given directly to students.

Students without a completed FAFSA won’t be considered in ISU’s distribution plan. However, the university says emergency funds are available for those students.

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