Brigham Young University-Idaho students walk between classes in this 2016 file photo.

Brigham Young University-Idaho and the other universities in the BYU system are turning down almost $54.2 million in federal funding that they could have gotten under the federal coronavirus relief bill.

"BYU-Idaho deeply appreciates the support given to institutions of higher education through the CARES Act: Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund," the Rexburg-based university said in an email to students and staff. "At this time, the university is prepared to meet the needs of our students without accessing these federal funds. Therefore, BYU-Idaho has decided not to accept any part of the funds allocated to the university. The Department of Education has been notified of this decision."

The email said the university started to help students affected by coronavirus in March by distributing need-based aid and said students in need should contact the Student Financial Aid Office.

"BYU-Idaho is committed to providing a high-quality educational experience to our students," the email said. "Thanks to the support of our sponsor, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are able to keep our tuition low. In addition to financial aid support, BYU–Idaho provides a large number of student-employment positions. We continue to look for opportunities to assist students, who are our first priority."

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act contained $14 billion for America's colleges and universities, most of it distributed on an enrollment-based formula. Half of this is reserved for emergency financial aid for students. Specifically, BYU-Provo could have gotten $32.3 million, BYU-Idaho could have gotten $18.2 million, BYU-Hawaii could have gotten $2.3 million and LDS Business College could have gotten $1.4 million, according to Deseret News.

In a separate statement, BYU-Provo said it was introducing a plan to help struggling students with private funds and eligible students had been sent instructions on how to apply. It said that, while BYU appreciates Congress' support for higher education, BYU did not apply for or request any CARES Act funding.

"BYU, like every private and public institution of higher education, has experienced and will continue to experience significant financial loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic," the statement said. "Our students have also been affected. However, we believe we can assist our students without the CARES Act funds. We also are seeing the financial strain this pandemic has put on other institutions, some of which may not be able to open their doors to students again without government relief. For this reason, BYU has decided not to accept any part of the funds allocated to our university. We have notified the Department of Education of our decision so that it might reallocate resources to others."

Idaho's public colleges and universities will get a combined $36 million under the CARES Act. Locally Idaho State University will get a little more than $7 million and the College of Eastern Idaho will get almost $1 million.

Reporter Nathan Brown can be reached at 208-542-6757. Follow him on Twitter: @NateBrownNews.