Last week, Congress approved the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, a $2.4 trillion spending package that includes $23 billion in aid for public and non-profit colleges and universities.
The relief package will provide about $286 million in new Higher Education Emergency Relief Funding (HEERF) to UNC system schools. Of that amount, almost $90 million is allocated directly for emergency student aid and about $196 million will go to the institutions themselves. (These figures are estimates created by the Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities.)
In an email to the UNC Board of Governors and campus administrators, UNC System President Peter Hans explained that the aid to universities can be used for various purposes, including:
- Defray[ing] expenses associated with coronavirus (including lost revenue, reimbursement for expenses already incurred, technology costs associated with a transition to distance education, faculty and staff trainings, and payroll);
- Carry[ing] out student support activities authorized by the HEA that address needs related to coronavirus; or
- Provid[ing] financial aid grants to students (including students exclusively enrolled in distance education), which may be used for any component of the student’s cost of attendance or for emergency costs that arise due to coronavirus, such as tuition, food, housing, health care (including mental health care), or childcare. In making financial aid grants to students, an institution of higher education shall prioritize grants to students with exceptional need, such as students who receive Pell Grants.
New HEERF allocations are shown in the table below.
New HEERF funding will be allocated to favor institutions that enroll a large number of low-income students. This is a change from the CARES Act, which allocated funding based on total enrollments.
The Department of Education is expected to release more details on HEERF funding in the coming weeks.
Universities have suffered significant losses over the past two semesters due to COVID-19. This aid, in addition to the $179 million in CARES Act that UNC schools received in the spring, will help universities recover. It will also mean that there is less pressure on the North Carolina legislature to increase its own appropriations to UNC in the coming year.
More Martin Center articles covering the impact of COVID-19 on colleges and universities can be found here.
Jenna A. Robinson is president of the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.