CARES Act funds will come in two waves

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The U.S. Education Department (ED) will disburse stimulus funding to higher education institutions in two waves, with the first round of $6.3 billion designated specifically to help students in need going out immediately.

ED on Thursday announced how much each higher education institution — including community colleges — will receive through the recently enacted stimulus legislation. Half of that amount, designed to help students, will be available starting next Wednesday. ED will provide guidance on the second half of the funding, designated for institutional use, within two weeks.

Information on institution-level funding for students, including data tables and the U.S. Education Secretary’s letter to college and university presidents.

The first wave of funding is for colleges to provide cash to students for expenses related to disruptions to their educations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. ED noted that course materials, technology, food, housing, healthcare and childcare are eligible for funding. Colleges will have discretion on the distribution of funds to students but will need to provide a signed certification to ED indicating that they will do so in accordance with applicable laws.  After submitting the form, money will be available in 24 to 72 hours, according to the department.

In regards to funds for institutional use, colleges will be able to use the money to cover costs associated with significant changes to the delivery of instruction due to the coronavirus.

The CARES Act provides $14 billion to colleges and their students. The most significant portion of that funding provides $12.6 billion that ED will distribute to institutions using a formula based on student enrollment. ED said the allocations are set by a formula prescribed in the legislation that is weighted significantly by the number of full-time students who are Pell Grant-eligible, but also takes into consideration the total population of the school and the number of students who were not enrolled full-time online before the coronavirus outbreak. The formula will use the most current Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and Federal Student Aid (FSA) information.

About the Author

Martha Parham
is senior vice president of public relations at the American Association of Community Colleges.