In December 2020, the United States Department of Education allocated $14 billion dollars to support higher education with the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act which passed in March 2020. This allocated funding is intended to provide financial support to higher education institutions for COVID-19 recovery efforts by utilizing the funding to expand remote learning programs, build IT capacity to support such programs, and train faculty and staff to operate effectively in a remote learning environment. As former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos wrote in her letter to institutions in April 2020, these funds, “will help ensure that learning can continue for your students during the Nation’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, and strengthen your position to support continued learning in the future”
On May 11 the Department of Education released its guidelines for this third stream of funding under HEERF for approximately $39.6 billion intended to prevent, prepare, and respond to COVID-19. This includes separate funding under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021. Altogether, higher education institutions have been allocated roughly $77 billion.
This allocated funding includes significant allocations to Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities (TCCUs). This particularly includes funding to support “technology costs associated with a transition to distance education, faculty and staff trainings, and payroll.” Drastically impacted by COVID-19, as reported in USA Today in June 2020, HBCUs have been operating on what is called a “shoestring budget” with many students enrolled annually coming from poor households, with more than half among them being the first in their families to attend university, relying on Pell Grants to fund their education according to the Thurgood Marshall Fund. HBCUs, along with other smaller institutions, heavily rely on auxiliary funding from student athletics, the bookstore, sporting events, and more to support operations at their universities and HBCUs struggled during the last year and half to stay afloat during the pandemic without the auxiliary funding. The hit that HBCUs have faced during the pandemic will be felt for years to come, even as relief is on the horizon with U.S. vaccination rates rising and a likely return to an in-person campus helping universities bounce back.
Additionally, the allocated HBCU CARES Act funding can provide some relief to HBCUs to utilize the funding to support students financially, but to improve the technological gaps that were identified in the beginning in the shift to virtual instruction and services. Without the in-person services available, institutions had to rely on technology and software to ensure that operations continued including career fairs, Title IX compliance, mental health support, disability accommodations, just to name a few. HBCUs aren’t alone in the pandemic identifying the services gaps required to support students, but with CARES Act funding, universities can significantly improve their services.
With CARES Act funding, HBCUs can turn to Symplicity as a trusted, technology partner with its suite of student services offerings that have helped universities see the full picture of the needs of their campus population. As of November 2020, according to the Center for American Progress, nearly $847 million of CARES Act funding remains unawarded meaning universities have funding sitting in their backyards that they can apply for to enhance their student offerings even in a post-pandemic world.
To support continued efforts in the wake of COVID-19, many universities turned to Symplicity to provide seamless, uninterrupted support to their students. With our suite of student services solutions, Symplicity has helped colleges close the insights gap many are facing, according to a recent survey conducted by Symplicity of 500+ higher education administrators, in which 66% of respondents reported that lack of actionable data and limited technology are the greatest challenges their institutions face in 2021.
If you are interested in applying CARES Act funding towards Symplicity solutions, fill out form to receive a template letter that can be used to submit a proposal.