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US Relief Package Includes Help for Students

President Joe Biden signs the American Rescue Plan, a coronavirus relief package, in the Oval Office of the White House, March 11, 2021.
President Joe Biden signs the American Rescue Plan, a coronavirus relief package, in the Oval Office of the White House, March 11, 2021.

About $40 billion has been included for higher education and student loan relief in the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill signed into law by President Joe Biden on Thursday.

Any federal student debt forgiven after December 31, 2020, and before January 1, 2026, will not be taxed as income, as it was prior to this legislation.

"While the new stimulus package includes tax-free forgiveness of student loans, it does not ultimately solve the problem of student loan debt in the country," Steve Muszynski, student loan expert and founder and CEO of Splash Financial, said in an email statement.

Bipartisanship "is essential for tackling the problem of student loans, and as delinquencies on student loan repayments remain at an all-time high," he said.

This is the largest federal allocation for institutions of higher education since the onset of the pandemic last March. Colleges and universities received about $14 billion last March as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act's Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund. As part of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, colleges and universities received an additional $23 billion in December.

At least 50% of the funds must go to students directly for emergency financial aid, the bill says, though it is up to each college to distribute the aid. The funds from this legislation may be used for tuition, as well as emergency costs such as health care, housing, food, mental health care and child care, according to The Wall Street Journal.

It is unclear for now whether international students or those in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program will be eligible for aid from their institutions. However, some of the emergency aid goes outside student loans.

In previous rounds of COVID-19 relief bills, students who are claimed as dependents have not qualified for stimulus payments. This may change for some under new guidelines. Payments totaling $1,400 per household member now include adult dependents, though that money will go to the taxpayer and not the student. This will be the third batch of checks sent out to qualifying Americans since the start of the pandemic.

Other facets of the legislation include unemployment benefits that continue the $300-per-week payments through September 6. Additionally, tens of billions of dollars will be allocated to coronavirus testing and contact tracing, increasing the size of the public health workforce and funding vaccination distribution.

Biden signed the bill Thursday, a day earlier than the White House had planned and a day after the legislation passed through Congress.

Sophia Solano contributed to this report.

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Universities in Middle East building research relationships with China  

FILE - University students display the flag of the Communist Party of China to mark the party's 100th anniversary during an opening ceremony of the new semester in Wuhan in China's central Hubei, September 10, 2021.
FILE - University students display the flag of the Communist Party of China to mark the party's 100th anniversary during an opening ceremony of the new semester in Wuhan in China's central Hubei, September 10, 2021.

As China bolsters research relationships with universities in the Middle East, the United States has taken notice – especially when that research involves artificial intelligence.

Reporting for University World News, Yojana Sharma has the story. (March 2024)

Tips for staying safe while studying in the US

FILE - In this Feb. 26, 2019 photo, Sgt. Jason Cowger, with Johns Hopkins University's Campus Safety and Security department, walks on the university's campus in Baltimore.
FILE - In this Feb. 26, 2019 photo, Sgt. Jason Cowger, with Johns Hopkins University's Campus Safety and Security department, walks on the university's campus in Baltimore.

Recent news events have raised safety concerns among some international students studying in the United States.

Adarsh Khandelwal, writing in the India Times, has tips for staying safe from the moment you arrive until the day you complete your studies. (March 2024)

Some colleges are making digital literacy classes mandatory

FILE - A teacher librarian at a Connecticut high school, left, works with a student in a Digital Student class, Dec. 20, 2017. The required class teaches media literacy skills and has the students scrutinize sources for their on-line information.
FILE - A teacher librarian at a Connecticut high school, left, works with a student in a Digital Student class, Dec. 20, 2017. The required class teaches media literacy skills and has the students scrutinize sources for their on-line information.

A 2019 study by Stanford found that most college students can’t tell the difference between real and fake news articles. Amid rampant online disinformation, and the threat of AI-generated images, some schools are making students learn “digital literacy” to graduate.

Lauren Coffeey reports for Inside Higher Ed. (March 2024)

With federal student aid delays, students aren’t sure what college will cost 

File - Students make their way through the Sather Gate near Sproul Plaza on the University of California, Berkeley, campus March 29, 2022, in Berkeley, Calif.
File - Students make their way through the Sather Gate near Sproul Plaza on the University of California, Berkeley, campus March 29, 2022, in Berkeley, Calif.

The U.S. Department of Education’s federal student aid form (FAFSA) experienced serious glitches and delays this year.

Now, many students have been admitted to college, but don’t know how much money they’ll need to attend.

Read the story from Susan Svrluga and Danielle Douglas-Gabriel for The Washington Post. (March 2024)

Senator draws attention to universities that haven’t returned remains

Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, speaks with reporters as he walks to a vote on Capitol Hill, Sept. 6, 2023 in Washington.
Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, speaks with reporters as he walks to a vote on Capitol Hill, Sept. 6, 2023 in Washington.

More than 70 U.S. universities continue to hold human remains taken from Native American burial sites, although those remains were supposed to be returned 30 years ago.

Jennifer Bendery writes in Huffington Post that one senator has been using his position in an attempt to shame universities into returning remains and artifacts. (April 2024)

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