As part of the American Rescue Plan, universities, colleges and even tech schools are receiving funds to help students in numerous, creative ways.

The department of Education just announced more than  $36 billion in Higher Education Emergency Relief (HEER)Fund emergency grants that will go directly to postsecondary educational institutions. These grants, approved in march as part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, will help over 5,000 institutions of higher education, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and provide emergency financial aid to millions of students and ensure that learning continues during the COVID-19 national emergency.

The good news for students is that public and private non-profit schools must use half of the funding

they receive to provide direct relief to students. Institutions may use the remaining funding in a variety of ways, from retaining students by offering academic or mental health support systems and reengaging students by discharging student debts accrued during the pandemic to implement- ing evidence-based practices to monitor and suppress the virus in accordance with public health guide- lines and detecting virus transmission with a diagnostic or screening testing strategy. They may also cover institutional costs, such as lost revenue, reimbursement for expenses already incurred, technology associated with the transition to distance education, staff training, and payroll.

Proprietary schools, which includes many technical schools including beauty and barber colleges, must use 100% of the funding to pro- vide financial aid grants to students.

“These funds are critical to ensuring that all of our nation’s students – particularly those disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic

– have the opportunity to enroll, continue their education, graduate, and pursue their careers,” said U.Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “With this action, thousands of institutions will be able to provide direct relief to students who need it most, so we can make sure that we not only recover from the pandemic, but also build back even stronger than before.”

The Department of Education (ED) released a final rule that allows institutions to provide emergency aid to all students, but the ARP requires that institutions prioritize students with exceptional need, such as students who receive Pell Grants or undergraduates with extraordinary financial circumstances. ED’s guidance clarifies that institutions can consider a variety of factors when assessing need, such as a student’s eligibility for other federal or state need-based aid, significant unexpected expenses, loss of employment, reduced income, or food or housing insecurity. Institutions can also consider the needs of students who did not complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). For more details about student eligibility requirements, please see the final rule here and additional guidance here.

The amount of the allocations to institutions is based on a formula that includes their relative share of Federal Pell Grant recipients, relative shares of non-Pell Grant recipients, and relative share of Federal Pell recipients exclusively enrolled in distance education prior to the coronavirus emergency. Based on this formula, HBCUs ($2.6 billion) and community colleges ($10 billion) will fare well.

The details of the program were just announced May 11, but if you think you might qualify, connect im- mediately with your higher education institution to make sure your funding needs are not overlooked.

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