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Delaware uses $45 million in COVID-19 relief money for higher education

Natalia Alamdari
Delaware News Journal

Colleges and universities in Delaware will now have access to a $45 million pot of relief money, the state announced Tuesday. 

The money, a portion of federal CARES Act dollars distributed to the state, must be used to cover expenses that are directly related to universities’ COVID-19 responses. 

“Delaware’s colleges and universities not only provide students with an excellent education, but also contribute to economic development in our communities,” Gov. John Carney said in a statement. “This funding will assist with the expenses to help ensure a safe environment.” 

Economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has left colleges across the country struggling with decreased enrollment and revenue, while expenses climb. 

COVID-19 safety measures have been placed all around the campus of Delaware State University in Dover.

In Delaware, colleges experienced layoffs, steep budget cuts, and furloughs to shrink budget deficits. 

At the University of Delaware, a $250 million deficit has so far led to pay cuts, a voluntary retirement option, cuts to retirement contributions and reduced hours. 

“Given that we have eliminated almost all discretionary expenses for this year, we have no choice but to turn to personnel actions,” university President Dennis Assanis said in a letter to faculty and staff in September. 

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The state’s pandemic advisory committee recommended supporting colleges and universities to avoid possible tuition increases or cuts to student aid. 

Early on in the pandemic, colleges received CARES Act funding directly from the federal government to cover expenses like the rapid shift to virtual learning and student financial aid packages. 

UD received $6 million at the time, chipping away at a deficit that was already growing out of control. Delaware State University received $2.7 million. 

Tuesday’s $45 million is the first major higher education money that the state has doled out from its CARES Act share. 

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Colleges and universities may use the money on needs like personal protective equipment, supplies like plexiglass barriers and air purifiers for buildings, more cleaning and disinfecting services, increased costs for COVID-19 screenings, technology expenses, pandemic-related signs, and marketing and media expenses related to COVID-19.  

Eligible institutions include the University of Delaware, Delaware State University, Delaware Technical Community College, Wesley College, Wilmington University, Goldey-Beacom College, and Delaware College of Art and Design.

Natalia Alamdari covers education for The News Journal. You can reach her at (302) 324-2312 or nalamdari@delawareonline.com.