Harvard has backed down from its earlier insistence in taking federal relief money and allocating it to students in need, now saying that it will not seek out nor accept the $8.6 million it would receive from the coronavirus stimulus package that President Donald Trump signed last month, The New York Times reports.
The country’s richest university had faced mounting criticism over the past week for being allocated the relief money despite its endowment, which was valued at $40.9 billion as of June 2019.
On Tuesday, the President chimed in, insisting that Harvard would have to “pay back” the relief money.
“Harvard’s going to pay back the money,” the President said. “They have one of the largest endowments anywhere in the country, maybe in the world, I guess, and they’re going to pay back that money.”
Harvard had originally dismissed the President’s comments, pointing out that this was money allocated to them due to the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, which was part of the CARES act, and not from the federal fund for small businesses, as the President appeared to suggest.
Now the university said it was concerned that the increased scrutiny will undermine participation in the relief effort, and as a result, has decided not to participate.
“We are also concerned, however, that the intense focus by politicians and others on Harvard in connection with this program may undermine participation in a relief effort that Congress created and the President signed into law for the purpose of helping students and institutions whose financial challenges in the coming months may be most severe,” the university said in a statement.
Two other top universities—Princeton, which was slated to get about $2.4 million in relief money, and Stanford, which was to be allocated $7.3 million—also announced that they would not be accepting the funds.