The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 (H.R. 133), approved by Congress and signed into law in late December, 2020, is a massive legislative package containing several substantial bills, including an omnibus package of FY2021 funding bills and an emergency spending bill to address the impacts of COVID-19. The relief bill includes $22.7 billion in emergency assistance for higher education and students.
The $22.7 billion funding is divided into four pots:
- 89% of the total for the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF);
- 7.5% of the total dedicated to historically Black colleges (HBCUs), Hispanic Serving Institutions, and other minority serving institutions;
- 3% of the total for student emergency aid for students at for-profit institutions; and
- .5% of the total for grants to institutions particularly impacted by the pandemic or disadvantaged by the formula for intuitional aid.
The American Council on Education (ACE), with assistance from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), conducted a simulation on how the Department of Education might allocate the $20.2 billion pot of funding dedicated to about 3,500 public and private nonprofit institutions and their students. The formula for allocating funds relies on several measures of an institution’s enrollment, including the number of Pell and non-Pell students; full-time enrollment (FTE) and headcount; and students who were or were not exclusively online at the start of the pandemic.
ACE estimates that the University of Oregon may receive approximately $24 million, with a minimum of $8.1 million of that allocated for direct grants to students.
Student emergency funding can be used for a broad range of purposes, including anything that is covered under cost of attendance. Similarly, institutional funds can be used for a wide range of purposes, including replacing lost revenue or paying for new expenses. The bill does not define which students are eligible to receive emergency aid, and current guidance restricts eligibility only to those students who are currently eligible to receive Title IV aid. It is expected that the Biden administration will expand eligibility more broadly when it takes office.