On March 10, 2021, Congress passed the Biden Administration’s American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA). Building on previous Congressional relief bills – the CARES Act and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA) – the ARPA commits significant resources to colleges and universities. In fact, the ARPA directs more money to institutions, in overall totals, than either of the CARES Act or the CRRSAA.
Direct Grants to Institutions
First, the ARPA commits nearly $40 billion dollars in funding to higher education through the existing Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF). Importantly, such ARPA funds are provided in accordance with the same terms and conditions of Section 314 of CRRSAA. Public and private non-profit institutions will receive 91% of the $40 billion in the form of direct grants. Another 7.5% is aimed at minority serving institutions, while 1% is directed to for-profit institutions and 0.5% is reserved for the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE). The funds will remain available through September 30, 2023. All institutions that receive grants will be required to spend at least 50% of their allocation on emergency financial aid grants provided directly to students. Like the previous relief bills, the ARPA also instructs institutions to spend at least a portion of the grant funds on implementing “evidence-based practices to monitor and suppress coronavirus in accordance with public health guidelines” and conducting “direct outreach to financial aid applicants about the opportunity to receive a financial aid adjustment due to the recent unemployment of a family member or independent student.”