Washington Watch: HEERF update and survey request

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Although the attention of federal higher education policymakers has shifted to other issues, waiting in the wings for vigorous public scrutiny is an accounting of how higher education institutions have used Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds (HEERF). 

In aggregate, postsecondary education institutions received approximately $77 billion from the three pandemic-focused funding bills (CARES, CRRSAA and the American Rescue Plan). This is more than two and a half times the annual spending on the Pell Grant program. Community colleges alone received more than one-third of their total annual expenditures through HEERF (including student funds).

Although most colleges have allocated substantial portions of their HEERF funds, many community colleges have significant amounts remaining both for institutional pandemic-related spending. Many, perhaps most, public two-year colleges anticipate requesting a one-year, no-cost extension to their awards. The extension will generally allow them to allocate HEERF funds through May 2023, or perhaps later in the year, depending on when they received their grant notifications. 

As colleges are aware, they must submit quarterly HEERF spending reports and complete an annual data collection instrument. The government is reviewing comments on proposed modifications to the next year-end report. AACC has submitted comments on the proposed changes, and a number of community colleges have also sent comments, as reflected in the Office of Management and Budget’s 60-Day response to public comments. Campus comments may be submitted through early November.

Gauging how the funds are helping

Community college CEOs have an opportunity to provide their views on the impact of HEERF funds on their campuses through a very brief survey instrument developed by the American Council on Education (ACE) Qualtrics Survey | Qualtrics Experience Management. The seven-question, multiple-0choice query will generate a broad sense of the perceived impact of HEERF funds on college campuses. Responses to this confidential survey may help higher education advocates better present to the public the impact of the tremendous resources provided to them by Congress to help them weather the pandemic. It should take no more than a few minutes to complete. 

The deadline for this survey is November 1 at 9 a.m. Only a college’s CEO or equivalent institutional representative should complete this brief questionnaire. We apologize for the short timeframe, but the survey only became available earlier this week. 

AACC continues to work closely with its member colleges as well as the U.S. Education Department in implementing HEERF. Please contact AACC if you have any questions related to it.

About the Author

David Baime
is senior vice president for government relations at the American Association of Community Colleges.