Bar Exams in the Pandemic JURIST Digital Scholars
California community colleges claim Department of Education regulation violates Constitution

In a lawsuit filed on Monday, several community colleges in California alleged that community college restrictions on COVID-19 aid violate the Constitution and exclude more than half of all of the students in the California community college system, “including many identified as economically disadvantaged.”

The CARES Act allocated 580 million dollars to aid community colleges in California and authorized them to distribute the aid as seemed appropriate. The Department of Education (DOE) clarified that these funds are not Title IV financial aid.

On April 21 the DOE distributed guidance documents for the aid. These documents said that the funds were subject to Title IV regulations.

The community colleges allege that subjecting the funds to the Title IV restrictions violate the Spending Clause of the US Constitution.

[The regulations] (a) are not related to Congress’s purpose for HEERF Assistance; (b) were not unambiguously imposed by Congress; (c) have not provided recipients with a knowing choice of what is required to comply with the conditions; and (d) were imposed by DoE after a number of colleges in the Plaintiff Districts accepted the terms and conditions of the Certification.

In bringing this lawsuit, the community colleges are hoping to stop the DOE from “arbitrarily placing eligibility restrictions on emergency relief funds.”

For more on COVID-19, see our special coverage.