American Rescue Plan funds released: 3 ways to spend them

American Rescue Plan more than double what the first two COVID relief packages allocated to higher education
By: | May 13, 2021
The American Rescue Plan provides $10 billion to community colleges, $2.6 billion to historically Black colleges and universities, $6 billion to Hispanic- and other minority-serving institutions, and $190 million to tribally controlled colleges.The American Rescue Plan provides $10 billion to community colleges, $2.6 billion to historically Black colleges and universities, $6 billion to Hispanic- and other minority-serving institutions, and $190 million to tribally controlled colleges.

Supporting vulnerable students and suppressing COVID will be the priorities for college leaders distributing $36 billion in newly-released American Rescue Plan funds.

The emergency grants that the Department of Education began releasing Tuesday will more than double what the first two COVID relief packages allocated to higher education, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said on a call with reporters.

“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,” Cardona said.

The American Rescue Plan provides $10 billion to community colleges, more than $2.6 billion to historically Black colleges and universities, approximately $190 million to tribally controlled colleges and universities, and more than $6 billion to Hispanic- and other minority-serving institutions, Cardona said.


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The number of Pell Grant recipients at a college or university determines how much relief funding the institution receives, he said.

In guidance released Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Education highlights three key ways colleges and universities can use the Rescue funds:

1. Supporting students with exceptional needs: College administrators can consider a variety of factors when assessing students’ needs, such as their eligibility for federal or state need-based aid, significant unexpected expenses, loss of employment, 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).

Example: San Joaquin Delta College, a Hispanic-serving institution in Stockton, California, has already earmarked $6.2 million to provide direct grants to over 4,100 students who have shown the highest need for financial support, the Department of Education said.

2. Retention and re-engagement of students: Institutions can work to retain students by providing academic or mental health support for students.

Institutions can also reengage students by discharging debts accrued during the pandemic to encourage them to re-enroll or obtain a transcript to continue their education at another institution.


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Example: Blackfeet Community College, a tribally controlled institution in Browning, Montana, used previous relief funding to purchase 500 laptops for a loaner program that allowed students to remain enrolled.

3. Prevent and mitigate the spread of COVID-19: Campus leaders can fund efforts to vaccinate students and campus communities and build confidence in the vaccinations.

Institutions can also purchase technology, such as ventilation upgrades, and operate COVID testing programs.

Example: Alabama State University, an HBCU, used prior relief funds to purchase of personal protective equipment for students, faculty and staff.