The nearly $40 billion in Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds (HEERF) that was recently granted to U.S. colleges and universities is great news.
However, determining how and when to spend these funds also can be extremely challenging and overwhelming for higher education institutions.
The reasoning behind this is two-fold. First, there are a number of factors that must be taken into consideration when deciding how to allocate these funds. These can be anything from improving campus safety to boosting staff efficiencies.
Ultimately, these decisions revolve around opportunities for generating revenue as well as strengthening community relations and the local economy.
Second, stakeholders and decision-makers often struggle to come to an agreement on which initiatives to prioritize and how to align on funding. It can be a cumbersome process, but it doesn’t have to be.
In fact, we’ve seen a number of colleges and universities successfully spend these funds and make a positive impact on campus life and their local communities based on their unique budgets and needs.
Creating safer environments
For example, Ohio University used a portion of their HEER funds to implement a campus-wide parcel locker solution for faculty and staff to provide a safe, secure and contactless way for them to retrieve their packages and online orders during COVID-19 and beyond.
North Dakota State University and Spalding University have also utilized part of this funding to roll out a Campus Hub solution that leverages smart lockers and asset tracking software to provide full chain of custody for all goods and assets distributed on campus.
In this instance, the Campus Hub is both something covered by the HEER funds and something that all departments can benefit from, removing the friction usually associated with seeking funding from alumni donations or the school’s designated budget.
These universities are using Campus Hub to:
- Deliver student packages and mail
- Distribute personal belongings or electronics such as laptops and tablets
- Disseminate library books, textbooks or move-in materials
- Manage shipping logistics for food and beverage
Their various departments—such as the mail center, library, bookstore and dining hall—all tap into the same software to access chain of custody for whatever they have moving around campus. This helps to reduce touchpoints, provides a contactless experience, and minimizes face-to-face interactions to keep both students and faculty safe.
Investing in the tech of tomorrow
Campus Hub is just one example of how use cases for parcel lockers have never been broader and acquisition has never been easier thanks to recent rounds of government funding like the CARES Act.
Colleges and universities can easily put together new tech solutions like the Campus Hub modularly. All they have to do is take a look at their available HEER funds and do what they can now with the money that is available to them, and then plan accordingly to piecemeal the rest of their implementations.
Innovation has been accelerated out of necessity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We encourage colleges and universities to take advantage of these HEER funds today to invest in the technology of tomorrow.
By doing so, they will help to create a safer environment for students and staff, and ultimately help make a positive impact in their communities.
Christopher O’Brien is executive vice president and Robert Zinsky is director of parcel solutions at Parcel Pending by Quadient.