How 11 states are using emergency federal funds to make improvements in college access

The Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER I and II) gave states $4.25 billion in discretionary federal dollars to support K–12 schools, higher education, and workforce initiatives. These were welcome resources, coming just as the pandemic accelerated unemployment and exacerbated declining college enrollment, hitting those from low-income backgrounds hardest.

As of May 1, about $1.5 billion remained from GEER I and II; only eight states had used even a portion of their GEER II funds. And governors still have time to use new American Rescue Plan (ARP) dollars to invest in initiatives that prepare youth for the workforce, like Connecticut is doing through summer internships and college and career navigation tools. If governors act boldly and creatively, remaining GEER and ARP funds can lay the groundwork for closing opportunity gaps through education and workforce initiatives.

Most states are not yet putting youth hit hardest by the pandemic on a path to success. Instead, they are investing in one-time college scholarships or short-term supports that will end once funds run out — such as a traveling bus with academic resources.

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