Today, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) awarded the final $198 million in Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) grants. The grants will assist students who attend 244 colleges and universities and provides resources to help these institutions recover from the impacts of the pandemic. The American Rescue Plan, signed by President Biden in March 2021, provided almost $40 billion in relief funds to colleges and universities, directly helping thousands of students impacted by the pandemic.
The grants have been awarded to public and private non-profit colleges and universities that have the greatest unmet needs, including community colleges and rural institutions that serve a high percentage of diverse student populations and low-income students, and those that have experienced enrollment declines since the start of the pandemic, among other categories.
Of the funds awarded today, almost 90 percent will go toward Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), community colleges, rural institutions, and institutions serving large populations of low-income students. The majority of institutions are also required to distribute roughly half of all grant funds directly to students with the greatest need, which helps provide additional support for housing, tuition support, addressing food insecurity, and other basic needs.
“The institutions that serve our highest-need students were not only hit hard by the pandemic, but in many cases have also struggled with chronic underinvestment and funding inequities,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “This funding from the American Rescue Plan will help HBCUs, MSIs, community colleges, and other inclusive institutions better support their students, from investing in campus mental health, to providing financial relief, to meeting housing, transportation, and child care needs. When we invest in stronger supports for our students, we help remove barriers to their success so that they can stay on track with their studies, complete their degrees, and ultimately, build rewarding careers.”
As part of the announcement, Secretary Miguel Cardona, First Lady Jill Biden, and American Rescue Plan Coordinator Gene Sperling will join leadership from the Community College of Philadelphia, Coahoma Community College, and Southwestern Michigan College for a press call to highlight the positive impacts these grants have had on their students and institutions. These colleges have spent funds reducing or eliminating tuition, eliminating outstanding student balances, addressing food insecurity by supporting a food pantry, creating a zero-cost textbook program, and covering costs of evidence-based practices to monitor and suppress the spread of Covid-19.
The Biden-Harris Administration has made unprecedented investments through ARP in many of our nation’s historic or under-resourced institutions that educate students whose communities were most acutely affected by the pandemic. These investments include more than $10 billion to community colleges, over $2.6 billion to HBCUs, approximately $190 million to TCUs, and more than $13 billion to MSIs such as Hispanic-Serving Institutions and Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions. ARP funds more than doubled the higher education grants that were made available under previous pandemic relief bills.
The Biden-Harris Administration remains committed to ensuring recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Today’s announcement highlights the Administration’s commitment to supporting our nation’s most under-resourced institutions in preventing, preparing for, and responding to the pandemic. In addition to funds providing emergency financial aid to students, institutional funds can be used to provide basic needs support, expand mental healthcare, create retention programs, and monitor and suppress the spread of Covid-19 among other initiatives designed to respond to the pandemic.