The U.S. Department of Education today announced an additional $198 million in American Rescue Plan funding for community colleges and institutions with the greatest unmet needs related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The announcement also includes several other measures to support students and institutions. These initiatives are intended to decrease barriers to success with a particular focus on challenges the pandemic has exacerbated.

The announcement included the following initiatives and guidance:

  • An additional $198 million in funding from American Rescue Plan funds will be made available to support community colleges and institutions with the greatest unmet needs related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This program, the Supplemental Support under American Rescue Plan (SSARP) program, will be competitively awarded in late spring. SSARP Funds can be used towards:
    • Evidence-based practices to monitor and suppress COVID-19
    • Strategies for addressing students’ basic needs
    • Support for students’ continued enrollment and re-enrollment
    • Forgiveness of institutional debts
    • Expansion of programs that lead to in-demand jobs  
  • New guidance providing answers to questions about the allowable uses of the institutional portion of HEERF funds and examples about how institutions can use these grants to support students’ basic needs. The list is illustrative but not exhaustive. Additionally, the guidance also highlights institutions that have already used HEERF funds to do so.
  • $5 million in new grant funding awarded to six community colleges to develop new initiatives to address student needs. 
    • The six awardees are all both community colleges and Hispanic Serving Institutions: Montgomery College (MD), Los Angeles City College (CA), Rio Hondo College (CA), Hartnell Community College District (CA), McLennan County Junior College District (TX), and Passaic County Community College (NJ).
  • A Dear Colleague Letter being sent by the Department to all public and private higher education institutions letting them know they can use Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) data to communicate with students about other benefits programs they may be eligible to receive such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Affordable Connectivity Program. It advises institutions to widely share this information in an effort to inform students.

Previously, the American Rescue Plan provided $40 billion to colleges and universities through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF). Information about how previous rounds of HEERF funding can be used can be found here.