By Owen Daugherty, NASFAA Staff Reporter
The Department of Education (ED) in a release on Wednesday announced the availability of a new grant program for higher education institutions, in an effort to help those that demonstrated the most need due to disruptions caused by the novel coronavirus.
The grants are to be utilized by institutions for both resuming operations and supporting students, including but not limited to reducing transmission of COVID-19 on campus, as well as developing and optimizing instructional delivery models for students who are not able to, or choose to not attend in-person classes, the release stated.
The new grant program — the Institutional Resilience and Expanded Postsecondary Opportunity (IREPO) grant program — is part of the pot of funds from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) set aside for schools with the greatest need. ED previously utilized some of the $350 million in the federal relief package to help institutions it deemed most impacted by the coronavirus. That money came from a provision in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act that earmarked 2.5% of the roughly $14 billion in the HEERF to create a discretionary fund for DeVos to send to colleges and universities determined “to have the most unmet need related to coronavirus.”
“This grant program will help students stay on track toward their educational goals by sustaining their learning opportunities and even creating new ones,” said Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. “For schools in need, these grants will help them keep their doors open and will pave the way for them to come back stronger than before.”
Additionally, the program is aimed toward high school students starting their college education early while still enrolled in high school, giving priority to institutions that plan to expand those opportunities to students who live or attend high school in an Opportunity Zone or rural community.
The funds for the new program are allocated under the CARES Act and come from the Education Stabilization Fund (ESF), a $30 billion portion earmarked for education, with $14 billion specifically for higher education.
The release noted that the IREPO grant awards will be prioritized for institutions demonstrating the greatest unmet need related to the ongoing pandemic.
Proposals including any of the following will receive additional consideration:
Provide dual enrollment opportunities to students who live or attend school in a rural community or Opportunity Zone;
Are led by, or include as partners, historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges, minority-serving institutions (MSIs), and/or developing institutions that are eligible to participate in Title III or Title V programs; and/or
Are committed to developing more resilient instructional delivery models, such as distance learning, that make learning possible even when students cannot be physically present on campus for any reason.
Institutions wishing to apply for the grant program will be able to do so within two weeks, according to the release. Institutions will have 60 days to apply from the date the notice is published in the Federal Register.
Publication Date: 8/20/2020