Student engagement is not just a buzzword. It's an essential task for institutions of higher education and students.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, disruption to routines is occurring as schools blend remote and in-person learning. Add to that the fact campuses are more culturally and linguistically diverse than ever and the need to ensure students remain tethered to campus is even more important.
One key to better communication and student engagement overall, is an investment in technology. The right campus solution improves communication with students learning online and on-campus. A modern campus portal serves that goal by linking all students to necessary resources and ensuring the entire campus receives up-to-date notifications. To that end, federal funding is being made available to institutions of higher education with one allowable use being education technology.
In December 2020, the U.S. Congress passed a funding bill that included the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA), which included an additional 22.7 billion dollars for higher education in the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF II).
Here are a few facts about CRRSAA-HEERF II and how the funds are being distributed:
What is CRRSAA-HEERF II?
In January, the federal government announced an additional 21 billion dollars to higher education institutions as the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF II). HEERF II is authorized by the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA), 2021 to provide relief funding to address pandemic-related issues. This is the second Coronavirus relief bill passed by the U.S. Congress that provided significant funding for Higher Education. The first funding package was called the CARES Act, and it provided 14 billion dollars to colleges and universities which is the original Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) funding. New funding for higher education in CRRSAA uses the same name, referring to it as HEERF II funds.
What is the purpose of CARES Act funding in Higher Ed?
CRRSAA-HEERF II (and CARES Act) funding is intended to defray 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).
Congress created several different formula and discretionary allocations within HEERF. Please click on the links below for more information and resources on the specific program or distribution:
- Student Aid Portion for Public and Nonprofit Institutions (a)(1) Note: Institutions are responsible for determining how grants are distributed to students, how the amount of each student grant is calculated, and the development of any instructions or directions that are provided to students about the grant.
- Institutional Portion for Public and Nonprofit Institutions (a)(1) Note: Application is only required if institution did not receive a CARES Act HEERF Institutional Portion award.
- Proprietary Institutions Grant Funds for Students (a)(4) Note: For institutions that did receive CARES Act HEERF Institutional Portion funding.
What changes did Congress make to the (a) (1) grant programs from the CARES Act to the CRRSAA?
Congress made six major changes to the (a)(1) programs:
- Provided supplemental funding
- Expanded the allowable uses of grant funds
- Modified the share of (a)(1) funds that must be used for financial aid grants to students
- Added allocations for students enrolled in exclusively distance education courses
- Created a separate program for proprietary institutions
- Institutions paying the endowment excise tax will have to disclose their tax status
More specific questions are answered in two Department of Education FAQ sheets:
- CRRSAA HEERF II Section 314(a)(1) Frequently Asked Questions
- CRRSAA HEERF II Section 314(a)(4) Frequently Asked Questions
Technology plays an important and crucial role in student engagement; especially as higher education institutions navigate the new realities of COVID-19 with students continuing with distance education. Fully serving students is a top priority and a user-friendly portal will support that goal.
OneCampus offers an all-in-one portal where students can access the information that matters to them. Administrators and faculty can send critical communications without burdening IT in complex maintenance and updating. Schedule a OneCampus demonstration to learn more!