ED awards final round of HEERF grants

U.S. Education Department (Photo: AACC)

The U.S. Education Department (ED) announced on Wednesday that it has awarded the final $198 million in Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) grants to 244 colleges and universities, most of which are community colleges, rural institutions, minority-serving institutions (MSIs) and historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

The grants come through the American Rescue Plan (ARP), which has provided nearly $40 billion in relief to help higher education institutions and their students struggling during the Covid pandemic. According to ED, most of the institutions in the new round of grants are required to distribute roughly half of the 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,” U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a release. “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.”

Related articles: ‘Colleges share lessons from HEERF spending‘ and ‘Washington Watch: How community colleges have used HEERF money

As part of the announcement, Cardona, First Lady Jill Biden and ARP coordinator Gene Sperling joined leaders from the Community College of Philadelphia, Coahoma Community College (Mississippi) and Southwestern Michigan College for a press call to highlight how the grants have helped their students and institutions. The colleges have used the funds to reduce or drop tuition, nix outstanding student balances, address food insecurity, create a zero-cost textbook program, and monitor and suppress the spread of Covid.

According to the department, ARP has provided more than $10 billion to community colleges, over $2.6 billion to HBCUs, approximately $190 million to tribal colleges and universities, and more than $13 billion to MSIs, such as Hispanic-serving institutions and Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-serving institutions.

State totals: Updated table of state-by-state awards for colleges and universities provided in the American Rescue Plan and the total received under the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund. ED also plans to soon post the full list of institutions that received grants.

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