Latest COVID-19 relief package includes $39.6 billion for higher ed

On Thursday, March 11, President Joe Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, a nearly $1.9 trillion package to provide another round of COVID-19 relief funding.  

The legislation was developed and passed through the budget reconciliation process, which directed authorizing committees to draft sections of a budget reconciliation bill based on President Biden’s COVID-19 relief proposal released shortly after his inauguration.

The American Rescue Plan Act includes $39.6 billion in additional funding for the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF). The bill also includes a House-passed provision that proposes changes to the 90/10 rule, which expands the 90 percent cap on revenue for-profit colleges can receive from the government to include all types of federal assistance. Also included in the measure is $100 million for the Institute of Education Sciences for research to address learning loss due to the pandemic and $135 million for the National Endowment for the Humanities. A new provision in the bill would ensure that any type of student loan forgiveness passed over the next five years is tax-free.

National associations representing the UO and the full spectrum of higher education institutions wrote letters to House and Senate leaders expressing their strong support the legislation. The letters noted that while the $40 billion included in the measure for higher education relief falls short of the $97 billion needed to address student and institutional needs, it “represents the largest federal effort so far to address the crippling impact of the pandemic on colleges and universities.”

Under HEERF, UO is expected to receive approximately $43 million with a required minimum distribution in direct grants to students of at least half the award. Total HEERF awards still fall far short of the university’s reported new costs and losses.

For more, read the Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities (APLU) analysis of the legislation here.