New Report Evaluates Student and Campus Experiences With Federal COVID Relief Funding

October 17, 2022

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Title: Evaluating Student and Institutional Experiences With HEERF

Source: National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA), NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, and HCM Strategists

A new report evaluates the administration of federal Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) dollars across three rounds of distribution during the COVID-19 pandemic. For their analysis, NASFAA, NASPA, and HCM Strategists surveyed both students and practitioners on their experiences with HEERF. They also compared the experiences of those at minority-serving institutions (MSIs) and non-MSIs.

Key findings from the analysis of student data include:

  • A majority (63 percent) of respondents received institutional emergency aid during the pandemic, with over half (56 percent) of students reporting HEERF grants as a source of aid.
  • Students who reported completion of an application to receive emergency financial assistance did not find the process difficult to navigate. Students attending MSIs were more likely to apply for aid than students attending non-MSIs.
  • Emergency financial assistance was used most frequently for basic needs, while a large portion of respondents also indicated use of funds for tuition and transportation.
  • Among those who did not receive assistance, students stated they were not aware of available funds or the application process.

Key findings from the analysis of practitioner data include:

  • Over half of respondents (51 percent) used a portion of HEERF institutional dollars to fund emergency student grants.
  • Institutions considered a range of criteria when determining student eligibility for emergency grants. The most used indicators to identify “exceptional need” were Pell Grant status, Pell eligibility, and estimated family contribution. Practitioners also reported a combination of automatic identification of grant recipients and a process for applying for available funds.
  • As a result of distributing HEERF emergency grants, institutions improved their emergency aid programs, policies, and processes. This included making changes when the Department of Education updated student eligibility requirements. Respondents also indicated (93 percent) that expanded uses of HEERF in additional rounds of funding gave them greater flexibility to serve student needs.
  • Practitioners reported they communicated frequently to all students (60 percent) about HEERF grant availability instead of targeting messaging to specific student groups. Additionally, it was reported that email (85 percent) and institutional website postings (61 percent) were primarily used to communicate about HEERF II and III emergency grant aid.

The report also includes recommendations and considerations to further strengthen institutional, federal, and state emergency aid policies.

To read the full report, click here.

—Danielle Melidona

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