For three consecutive academic years, the COVID-19 pandemic has upended the entire higher education system. Beginning in March of 2020, the pandemic forced institutions to shift to online learning and remote work, states faced uncertain short- and long-term budget dynamics, and students faced unimaginable disruption in the face of both public health and national economic emergencies. In response, Congress stepped in and allocated relief to institutions and students, beginning with the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in March 2020.
Over six months from the latest round of relief funding, there are substantial resources still available to students and institutions and an opportunity to develop aggressive and innovative strategies to help students. This policy brief details several ways colleges should consider using their remaining HEERF funds to meet students’ basic needs while laying the groundwork for programs and practices that reflect the long-standing food, housing, and financial insecurity crises.