ED Releases Recommendations on How Colleges Could Spend Leftover COVID-19 Funds

By Maria Carrasco, NASFAA Staff Reporter

The Department of Education (ED) on Monday released a letter listing recommendations colleges could take to use unspent COVID-19 relief money in order to expand career programs and pathways for students. 

The Dear Colleague Letter (DCL), signed by Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, gives guidance to colleges to use unspent money from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) to expand programming for dual enrollment and in-demand credentials. The letter also gives guidance to states and local educational agencies on how they can use funds from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations to create career pathways for high school students.

NASFAA recently released a report detailing the experiences students and institutions had with emergency COVID-19 funding, including how institutions doled out those funds to students, and what those students used the emergency funds for — like groceries, books, tuition, and more. 

“While the COVID-19 pandemic created additional barriers, it also increased awareness of how our disconnected systems exacerbate and perpetuate inequities in postsecondary and career outcomes,” the DCL states. “In order to successfully recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to rethink the paths that young people walk throughout and beyond our education system.” 

For example, the letter states that students participating in dual enrollment at an institution could have access to the same support services a full-time college student would receive, such as academic advising, counseling, and library resources, using HEERF grant funds. ED also notes that institutions could hire a designated liaison for students in dual enrollment programs that can advise those students and their families using HEERF grants funds. 

Institutions could choose to use the unspent funds to cover the cost of additional courses or test fees that instructors may need in order to meet qualifications to teach a course. ED states that could help colleges respond to the shortage of dual enrollment instructors. 

ED also recommends that states and local educational agencies hire additional school counseling staff to lower the student-to-staff ratios in order to help advise students, and could also support college access and intensive college admission programs. For example, states and local educational agencies could use COVID-19 funds to strengthen partnerships between secondary and postsecondary schools by providing student financial aid counseling to high school students that spans the school year and the summer months. 

Colleges could also give students the option to earn industry-sought credentials, such as the City Colleges of Chicago (CCC), the letter notes. CCC used HEERF to fund the Future Ready Scholarship, a program where students could earn credentials tuition-free in high-demand fields. 

“Policymakers and educators are beginning to lay a new foundation of college and career pathways in states and communities across the United States,” the letter states. “As we rebuild and recover, our challenge is to build on that foundation and bring together the component parts of our K-12, postsecondary, and workforce systems in a coherent manner with the goal of equipping every high school graduate with sufficient dual enrollment credits to provide momentum toward completing a postsecondary certificate or degree,a career plan for the future, a work-based learning experience, and an industry-sought credential”.


Publication Date: 11/15/2022

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