New Data Shows American Rescue Plan Helped Millions of College Students Stay Enrolled

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Millions of students across the United States have been helped by the American Rescue Plan and other pandemic relief funds, according to new data released by the U.S. Department of Education. The data shows that these funds kept students enrolled in school, helped keep costs down, and allowed faculty and staff to keep their jobs.

The data shows that since the beginning of 2021, financial aid from Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds (HEERF) grants has helped to keep over 6 million community college students enrolled in school, provided support for more than 450 thousand HBCU students and 24 thousand TCCU students while also providing funding for nearly 8 million MSIs like Hispanic Serving Institutions. This form of direct aid enabled these students to manage their tuition costs and other expenses during these difficult times, helping them remain in school and preserving faculty and staff employment opportunities as well. The report also showed that ninety-four percent of community colleges said HEERF allowed them to keep students enrolled who were at risk of dropping out by providing financial support in 2021.

Institutions of higher education (institutions) are required to submit annual reports to the Department detailing how HEERF has been used to support their institutions, students and communities. The Department used that data and 2022 spending to estimate the overall impact of HEERF funds during the Biden Administration. According to Department estimates, more than 18 million students have received direct financial aid under HEERF since the start of 2021.

The Department used the 2021 annual report data to identify key findings and state-specific impact data from the HEERF program. In 2021 alone, HEERF funds:

  • Helped students afford basic needs and remain enrolled in school. In 2021, institutions distributed $19.5 billion in Emergency Financial Aid Grants to 12.7 million students, including 80 percent of Pell Grant recipients.  Approximately 9 in 10 institutions reported that HEERF enabled them to keep students enrolled who were at risk of dropping out due to pandemic-related factors.
  • Kept student costs down, including reducing unpaid balances owed to the institution. Roughly 3 out of 4 institutions indicated that HEERF enabled them to keep student net prices similar to pre-pandemic levels. More than 1,400 institutions spent nearly $1.5 billion on discharging unpaid student balances.
  • Kept colleges open and faculty and staff employed. More than 2 in 3 institutions indicated that HEERF allowed them to keep faculty, staff, employees, and contractors at full salary levels.
  • Helped slow the spread of the pandemic. Nearly 3 in 4 institutions stated that HEERF enabled them to purchase COVID tests, provide health screenings, and provide the healthcare necessary to help support students, faculty, and staff.

The Department remains committed to providing support, resources, and guidance to institutions, students, and communities. The 2021 Annual Report illustrates how HEERF grants provided institutions and students the necessary resources to navigate responding to and recovering from the pandemic.

The full 2021 Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund report can be found HERE.
A state-by-state breakdown of HEERF grants and students impacted by state can be found HERE.
Highlights of how HEERF helped community colleges and their students can be found HERE.
Highlights of how HEERF helped HBCU students and colleges can be found HERE.
Highlights of how HEERF helped other Minority Serving Institutions and their students can be found HERE.
Highlights of how HEERF helped TCCU students and colleges can be found HERE.

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