Federal Higher Education Leaders Tout American Rescue Plan’s 1-Year Anniversary

By Hugh T. Ferguson, NASFAA Senior Staff Reporter

In approaching the one-year anniversary of the enactment of the American Rescue Plan (ARP), which allocated about $40 billion in funding for higher education, the White House hosted a briefing with congressional leaders to highlight the law’s impact.

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor, underscored that the focus of discussions was to hone in on Congress’ accomplishments in responding to the earlier stages of the pandemic.

“Build Back Better did not pass. … But what we are talking about is what we actually accomplished, not what could have been, should have been, but what we actually accomplished,” Scott said during Monday’s briefing.

The discussion also included a White House fact sheet that provided a state-by-state breakdown into how grants from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) were utilized by specific postsecondary institutions. Federal officials also discussed how that funding addressed institutional and student needs, such as by helping institutions purchase COVID-19 tests.

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said the department is celebrating a year of successful ARP usage and specifically highlighted how the aid assisted community colleges, HBCUs, as well as other minority-serving institutions (MSIs) that kept their student needs at the forefront.

“The Higher Education Emergency Relief funds provided through the American Rescue Plan have ensured that students — including our undocumented students, which is really important — that they could enroll, they could continue in their education, they could pursue their careers and the American Dream,” Cardona said.

Cardona also said that it was important to note that not everyone voted for the measure, which was enacted through the reconciliation process and relied solely on votes from congressional Democrats.

Rep. Alma Adams (D-N.C.), founder and co-chair of the Congressional Bipartisan HBCU Caucus, in her comments committed to continuing to work toward implementing programs housed within the Build Back Better framework and indicated that Congress would be working to address broadband improvement efforts that were brought to the forefront during the pandemic due to the increase in remote work.

In terms of additional reporting from ARP usage, Gene Sperling, a senior advisor to the president and a White House American Rescue Plan coordinator, indicated that more data on the use of funds would be forthcoming.

In June there is expected to be more data provided that will have more precise information on how funding was allocated to students, Sperling added.

Throughout the week, federal officials across the agencies most impacted by the funding will seek to draw attention to major initiatives within ARP that have not, according to officials, always grabbed the headlines.


Publication Date: 3/8/2022

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