2020 CARES Act - Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF)

Published: April 30, 2020

Coronavirus (COVID-19) PandemicEDUCEducation (Higher)Information TechnologyProfessional ServicesPublic Finance

See how the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) breaks down and what it means for the state of Higher Education. Check back weekly for updates surrounding funding, opportunities, and allocations.

Here's the latest on Higher Education and CARES Act Funding:

  1. Secretary DeVos grants additional funding to HBCUs, Minority Serving Institutions, and Colleges and Universities Serving Low-Income Students through a wave of funding

    • The funding is to be used for elements such as technology support for distance learning, operational costs, and lost revenue

  2. Words are surfacing citing bills on prohibiting coronavirus relief to universities with endowments higher than $10 billion - some have already declined their funding such as Princeton and Harvard 

  3. New Attachments: Allocations for Section 18004(a)(2) of the CARES Act (excel with funding formula); Methodology for Calculating Allocations for Section 18004(a)(2) of the CARES Act (PDF file), Allocations for Section 18004(a)(3) of the CARES Act (PDF file) 

As of April 21, 2020 education funding is making its rounds throughout the United States with big decisions to make all around. The Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund still remains at just over $14 billion of the Education Stabilization Fund of the CARES Act and no changes have been made to the funding formula since the Act was signed into law by Congress in March. 

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos made $6 billion in additional funds available on April 21 to be used " to expand remote learning programs, build IT capacity, and train faculty and staff to operate in a remote learning environment so that at any moment institutions can pivot quickly." In order to access the funds, higher education institutions must submit a Certification and Agreement for Recipient Institutional Costs, see the attached Institutional Certification Agreement as a PDF.

These funds go in line with other advantages for Higher Ed such as immediate regulatory flexibilities to continue education online; student loan relief to by setting all federally held student loan interest rates to 0%; allowing borrowers to defer payments for 60 days without interest; and by stopping all federal wage garnishments and collections actions for borrowers in default. See the full briefing here

Many State leaders have been furiously fighting for more relief, especially to student borrowers, but more relief will only come with time as the full impact of COVID-19 on Higher Education continues to unfold. Many Higher Ed institutions are considering their impacts on enrollment, tuition, housing and much more as they evaluate how to move forward. One of the biggest decisions is whether or not to go full-time remote in the Fall of 2020. With many incoming freshman across the country reporting they would prefer to take a gap year and let COVID-19 wreak its havoc and then come back as things settle, Higher Ed cannot continue online learning in its current state. With bandwidth maxed out and LMS usage way up, these institutions need the technology to keep up with the new student life. 

See the attached power point presentation on the Education Stabilization Fund that has been updated with new waivers and allocation information in regards to Higher Education. New information has been added surrounding career and technical education (CTE), literacy programs, and adult education. Funding deadlines for HEERF are still September 30, 2020 but continue to monitor HEERF here for up to date changes.

Overview of the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund:

Higher Education will see 46.3% of the $30.8 billion, roughly $14.25 billion, in the Education Stabilization Fund through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF). Now, what does that look like? 

The first breakdown is by 90% with regards to Pell Grant recipients. 

  • This amounts to 75% based on the amount of full-time students that are Federal Pell Grant recipients not exclusively enrolled in distance education courses prior to the coronavirus emergency.
  • The remaining 25% is allotted to share of full-time students that are not Federal Pell Grant recipients who are not exclusively enrolled in distance education courses prior to the coronavirus emergency.

This leaves 7.5% for additional awards to low income or minority serving institutions and finally 2.5% for institutions of higher education most severely impacted by coronavirus.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has also released new funding flexibilites to support continued learning. What this really means is that Higher Education institutions need to be smarter and craftier than ever in terms of their spending. With many institutions touting how much they will lose these flexibilites allow for the student's education be the forefront. Learning Management System (LMS) usage is up and free resources are popping up everywhere making digital learning the future, at least for now. Higher Education is at an advantage with much of communication already happening through technology, these institutions will need to capitalize on what they already have and leave missing funds to grant proposals.

With institutions already considering their decisions for the fall 2020 semester, the impact of COVID-19 will keep circling back to certain elements: mindful spending, staying forward-thinking, and keeping education alive and well. Students have seen a relief in loan payments and no interest and institutions have flexibilities to support current decision making, but staying mindful and future focused in terms of spending will be critical in order for students to remain at the heart of education.

A final take, many institutions called on the Federal Government via the Department of Education to administer funds in these first two weeks and schools are already seeing that. Higher Education may be showing some desperation but now is the time to make digital learning its best and train employees and instructors on the importance of communication and consistency. 

Please see the attached excel spreadsheet for the breakdown by State, the PDF file for the funding breakdown by Higher Ed institution, and the slide deck for relevant updates and analysis.

Sources: Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, U.S. Department of Education