What You Need to Do with Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund Guidance

May 12, 2020 | Article

The Department of Education (DOE) has released reporting guidelines for those institutions who have received the student portion of their Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF).

The HEERF provides emergency financial aid grants to students disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding is designed to help students facing financial challenges and is part of the CARES Act relief legislation.

We broke down what your higher education institution needs to know about the CARES Act.

Necessary Steps and Information
Within the guidance provided, it states the following information must appear on the institution’s primary website 30 days after the date when the institution received its allocation under 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act. It must be updated every 45 days thereafter:

  • Acknowledgement that the institution signed and returned to the DOE the Funding Certification and Agreement for Emergency Financial Aid Grants to Students and the assurance that the institution has used, or intends to use, no less than 50% of the funds received under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act to provide emergency financial aid grants to students.
  • The total amount of funds the institution will receive or has received from the DOE pursuant to the institution’s Funding Certification and Agreement for Emergency Financial Aid Grants to Students.
  • The total amount of emergency financial aid grants distributed to students under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act as of the date of submission (i.e., as of the 30-day report and every 45 days thereafter).
  • The estimated total number of students at the institution eligible to participate in programs under Section 484 of Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 and thus eligible to receive emergency financial aid grants to students under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act.
  • The total number of students who have received an emergency financial aid grant to students under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act.
  • The method(s) used by the institution to determine which students receive emergency financial aid grants and how much they would receive under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act.
  • Any instructions, directions, or guidance provided by the institution to students concerning the emergency financial aid grants.

As institutions are working to prepare the 30-day Fund Report, they must remember to still comply with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and protect personally identifiable information. The DOE states that it does not expect institutions to report information about a group of 10 or fewer students on publicly available websites controlled by the institution.

Those institutions that accurately report the information listed above will meet the initial reporting requirements. For subsequent reports and reporting for other related HEERF programs, the DOE will notify participating institutions of the preferred reporting method.

Maintaining Compliance in Your Higher Education Institution
The CARES Act provided several benefits for industry specific entities, including higher education institutions. It’s important to know the requirements for these relief provisions and comply with them. Ensuring you have the proper documentation in place for this funding is the first step. It will also be critical to watch for updated guidance and best practices as your higher education institution navigates this new normal.

Here’s what higher education organizations need to do in the wake of COVID-19.

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