Federal COVID-19 Emergency Relief Funding Critical to Underserved Students
January 24, 2022

​​Last fall, ACE fielded a questionnaire to presidents to better understand how their campuses used the COVID-19 Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds (HEERF) across three federal relief bills Congress approved in March 2020, January 2021, and March 2021. A new analysis of the survey results fi​nds that the federal relief funds were especially critical for lower-resourced institutions and their students, many of whom come from lower-income backgrounds.

While all presidents reported HEERF helped them keep students enrolled, retain employed faculty, and buy health-care equipment, those for whom HEERF funding was a higher share of their overall expenditures were more likely to do so. Nearly all presidents in this group (99 percent) indicated that HEERF helped their institution keep students who were at risk of dropping out enrolled by providing direct financial support. Presidents in this group were also much more likely to say that HEERF helped alleviate the digital divide facing students (91 percent) and helped keep employees at full salary levels (76 percent) than presidents whose HEERF funding was small relative to their total institutional expenditures. 

Click here to read the first analysis of the questionnaire. 

​​ED Announces Another $198 Million to Tackle Pandemic’s Effects 

On a related note, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and First Lady Jill Biden visited Bergen Community College in New Jersey last week to highlight the resources and services offered to students and their families supported by the American Rescue Plan, the final COVID-19 relief bill. The assistance has been particularly vital for the community college sector, which has been especially hard-hit these past two years.

Cardona and Biden also announced executive actions that will further support students’ basic needs both during the pandemic and beyond, including $198 million in funding to support access to childcare on campus for student parents, address food insecurity, discharge unpaid student balances so students can remain enrolled, and bolster mental health programs. 

ED also released guidance on how colleges can use existing data to connect students to other federal benefits, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Affordable Connectivity Program at the Federal Communications Commission.​​