By SUSAN JONES
The money Pitt will receive from the American Rescue Plan — $54.7 million — is more than the two previous stimulus packages combined. Just over half of that money must be used for student aid.
The U.S. Department of Education on May 11 announced how it would allocate $36 billion in COVID-19 relief to more than 5,000 institutions of higher education — part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan passed in March.
Pitt received $30.6 million in January 2021 from the $900 billion Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act passed in December 2020, and $21.3 million in April 2020 from the $2.2 trillion CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act.
Half of the money from the first two stimulus packages was used for direct student aid. The rest was used to offset pandemic-related expenses and restart costs.
A University spokesman said Pitt has not received the latest stimulus money yet, but plans to use half of the funds to directly support students with financial need. The remainder will be used to defray institutional COVID-19 costs, such as testing, PPE, technology needs arising from the switch to the Flex@Pitt model, and other restart costs that support campus health and safety. Specific details for use of the distribution of funds are under discussion, the spokesman said.
Allocations to institutions from the American Rescue Plan’s Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund are based on a formula that includes the number of federal Pell Grant recipients (on both a headcount and full-time equivalent basis), the number of non-Pell Grant recipients, and the number of Pell recipients exclusively enrolled in distance education prior to the coronavirus emergency.
According to the Department of Education, the money can be used to:
Give emergency financial grants to support students: A final rule from the department allows institutions to provide emergency aid to all students, but requires that they prioritize students with exceptional need, such as students who receive Pell Grants or undergraduates with extraordinary financial circumstances.
Retain and re-engage students: Institutions can use their funds to help retain students by providing academic or mental health support systems. Additionally, institutions can re-engage students by discharging student debts accrued during the pandemic so they can re-enroll and continue their education.
Prevent and mitigate the spread of COVID-19, including efforts to vaccinate students and campus communities: A portion of the money must be used to implement evidence-based practices to monitor and suppress coronavirus in accordance with public health guidelines. This can include costs associated with diagnostic and screening tests and to set up vaccination sites on or off campus. The money also can be used to set up campaigns to spread awareness and build confidence in getting vaccinated.
Cover a variety of institutional costs: These can include lost revenue, reimbursement for expenses already incurred, technology costs associated with a transition to distance education, faculty and staff trainings, and payroll.
Public and private nonprofit institutions also must use a portion of the money they receive to conduct direct outreach to financial aid applicants about the opportunity to receive a financial aid adjustment due to recent unemployment of a family member or themselves.
The stimulus plan specifically targeted some of nation’s most under-resourced institutions, including $10 billion to community colleges, $2.6 billion to historically black colleges and universities, approximately $190 million to tribally controlled colleges and universities, and more than $6 billion to other minority-serving institutions.
Find more information about the latest higher education stimulus money and a full list of allocations on the Department of Education website.
Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-244-4042.
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