The U.S. Education Department (ED) has not released all the higher education emergency relief funds (HEERF) at once. The first category — and the one that drew most of the attention — was the $20.2 billion combined formula-based institutional and student funds. That should come as no surprise, as these funds represent about 90% of the total amount allocated to higher education under the 2021 Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA), signed into law in December.
Institutions that received HEER funds under the CARES Act were not required to apply for formula-based CRRSAA funds. Other categories of HEER fund programs have their own application requirements. This includes the $1.7 billion for Title III and V of the Higher Education Act programs that were allocated next.
The department has yet to allocate two other pots of HEER funds: $680 million for for-profit institutions (excluded from the formula-based funds) and $113 million in Supplemental Assistance to Institutions of Higher Education (SAIHE) funds.
The application deadline for SAIHE funds is April 28, although it is not clear how many community colleges can or will apply.
SAIHE funds are intended for institutions that the education secretary determines has “the greatest unmet needs related to coronavirus.” Nonprofit public and private two- and four-year institutions that meet certain requirements may apply.
Seven absolute priorities are set for specific uses of funds. Absolute priority 6 applies to community colleges, those in rural settings in tier 1 and other community colleges in tier 2 of the priority that “serve a high percent of students with financial need and have experienced declining enrollment.”
Other colleges are listed in tier 3.
The specific criteria are that institutions have “experienced a decrease in student enrollment of 4.5% or more between Fall 2019 and Fall 2020 and had a total student undergraduate enrollment in Fall 2019 of which 50 percent of more are Pell Grant Recipients.”
All the relevant documents required to apply, including program profile, eligibility criteria and certification and agreement are available at the department’s HEERF II: SAIHE website.