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Law360 (June 11, 2021, 4:55 PM EDT) —
A suit targeting a Trump-era rule restricting coronavirus aid for foreign students was dropped Thursday after the Biden administration rescinded the rule formally on May 14, according to a notice of voluntary dismissal filed in California federal court.
The federal government also last month dropped an appeal of a preliminary junction issued in June 2020 by U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, which the group of plaintiffs, including the California Community Colleges, noted as further reason to drop the lawsuit without prejudice.
The California Attorney General’s Office and the U.S. Department of Education did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
In June 2020, then-Education Secretary Betsy DeVos issued a formal rule preventing students who are not eligible for federal financial aid grants — including beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, veterans and students with disabilities — from accessing the COVID-19 aid.
Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act in March 2020, which greenlighted $2 trillion in relief measures for individuals and businesses affected by the pandemic and ensuing shutdowns, including nearly $13 billion in emergency student assistance. Around $580 million was given to California.
But a month later, DeVos issued guidance indicating that student DACA recipients — known as Dreamers — and other foreign students would not be eligible for the funding because they are ineligible for financial aid. The department said that only students eligible for financial aid under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 would receive the emergency grants.
The California Community Colleges sued the department in May, arguing that Congress had intended for schools to have flexibility when dispersing those relief funds, according to court filings.
The federal government countered that Congress in fact “had the Title IV framework in mind” when crafting the legislation, pointing to its use of terms found in the bill. The government also claimed that because Congress didn’t specifically define “student” in the bill, Title IV’s definition should apply.
The department later issued a formal rule with the restrictions in June of that year.
Following the preliminary injunction, the federal government filed an appeal that it then dropped last month.
According to the stipulated dismissal without prejudice of the community colleges’ first amended complaint, all parties will bear their own fees and costs.
The community colleges are represented by the California Attorney General’s Office.
The government is represented by Michael Andrew Zee of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Division.
The case is Oakley et al. v. Cardona et al., case number 4:20-cv-03215, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
–Additional reporting by Suzanne Monyak. Editing by Daniel King.
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