Six Months of CARES Act Spending

February 22, 2021

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Title: The State of Higher Education Spending From the CARES Act

Authors: Marshall Anthony Jr. and Marissa Navarro

Source: Center for American Progress

URL: The State of Higher Education Spending From the CARES Act – Center for American Progress

A new report from the Center for American Progress examines federal CARES Act spending by colleges and universities, between March and November 30, 2020. CARES Act funding for colleges and universities was largely allocated in three designated buckets: $12.6 billion distributed to institutions (split into distinct institution and student portions), $1 billion specifically for minority-serving institutions (MSI), and nearly $350 million for public and nonprofit institutions that received little funding from the other buckets.

Drawing on data from the U.S. Department of Education, their analysis found that 75 percent of CARES Act funding had been spent by November 30, 2020, though differences in spending between portions of the funding ranged widely. With only 8 percent of the funding left, the student portion of the CARES Act funding has seen the highest use rate, compared with the 35 percent of the institutional funding remaining.

Additionally, their analysis found:

  • Arizona had disbursed the lowest proportion of funding from the student portion: just shy of 70 percent. Comparatively, institutions in 40 states and the District of Columbia had spent in excess of 90 percent of these funds.
  • Tribal colleges received the smallest portion of designated funding: $50.5 million
  • The Strengthening Institutions Program (SIP) designated for institutions with more than 50 percent of students receiving need-based aid, but who did not meet an MSI designation, spent 48 percent of the nearly $220 million appropriated.

Notably, the analysis presented represents funds spent by November 30, 2020, and institutions that received funding through multiple buckets may be spending from one fund in favor of another. This may result in some funds maintaining lower spending rates. Presumably, these funds continue to be used throughout the current academic year. To read the full analysis, please visit the Center for American Progress.

Charles Sanchez

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