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On February 3, the Department of Education announced the availability of funds under the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF), Supplemental Support under the American Rescue Plan (SSARP) program.  Institutions should refer to the common instructions for Applicants to ED Discretionary Grant Programs, (updated in December 2021), and submit applications by April 4.

The American Rescue Plan incorporated the requirements in Section (a)(3) of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA) that required ED to allocate close to $198 million of HEERF III funding for discretionary grants to institutions with the greatest COVID related unmet needs. ED will only consider applications that meet one or more of the following five absolute priorities:

  1. Institutions that did not receive (a)(1) funds because of technical errors or applications issues, such as missed deadlines or failure to report student data to IPEDS.
  2. MSI or Strengthening Institutions Programs grantees eligible to receive (a)(2) funds that were underfunded due to technical errors or application issues
  3. Underfunded ARP (a)(1) grantees due to an institutional merger or change in program participation agreement
  4. Community colleges and rural institutions serving a high percentage of low-income students and experiencing enrollment declines
  5. Institutions serving a high percentage of graduate students, where graduate student enrollment is at least 90 percent of student enrollment according to Fall 2020 IPEDS enrollment data.

ED encourages institutions applying for the SSARP program to use funds in the following ways:

COVID-19 mitigation, as required under ARP. Common examples of this use of funds include testing, purchasing test kits, contact tracing, ventilation improvements, establishing vaccine clinics and incentives, purchasing PPE, and so forth.

Addressing students’ basic needs, such as expanding student support services for things like childcare, food access, housing, transportation, mental health, and other similar services that improve daily living and educational activities.

Support continued enrollment and re-enrollment by providing additional emergency grant aid to students, subsidizing the cost of college, and providing additional student supports.

Forgive institutional debts and end transcript withholding by paying off account balances for students enrolled during the pandemic and changing transcript withholding practices.

Expanding programs that lead to in-demand high quality jobs by enhancing and adding specialized training and education.

NACUBO encourages institutions to understand high pandemic unmet need use as defined by ED and to thoroughly review ED’s absolute priorities of eligibility.


Sue Menditto

Senior Director, Accounting Policy


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