Colleges should use federal stimulus dollars to invest in student mental health services

Colleges should use federal stimulus dollars to invest in student mental health services

HEER funding is authorized in all three COVID-19 stimulus bills signed into law since last March. These bills and their HEER funding amounts include: To the rescue comes the Federal government which is now providing billions of dollars in higher education emergency relief funding (HEER) funding that will give colleges and universities the financial resources and flexibility they need to move ahead with this important investment. The CARES Act passed on 3/27/2020: $14 billion

The most recent American Council on Education survey of college presidents shows that student mental health continues to be their most frequently cited concern, with three-quarters of all presidents identifying student mental health as a pressing issue. A recent report from the National Academy of Medicine confirms that college students across the country are experiencing negative mental health impacts from the numerous dislocations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Student surveys show that mental health issues represent a growing threat to student retention, academic achievement, and degree completion.

However, COVID-19 has also reduced income and upended budgets for every college and university. So when I speak with presidents and other college administrators across the country they readily acknowledge the need to strengthen their student mental health services. Then they promptly cite financial constraints as the reason for not undertaking a critically-needed investment in student mental health. (PRNewsfoto/Christie Campus Health)

Story continues Each of the three stimulus bills divides a school’s HEER funding into two components: a Student Aid Portion and an Institutional Portion. The CARES Act stipulates that the Student Aid Portion must be at least 50% of a school’s HEER allocation and specifies that those funds must go directly to students to help them pay for the costs of their college education. The second and third stimulus bills require that the “same amount” of funding from each allocation must go to student financial aid. Since the dollars in the CCRRSA and ARP Acts are substantially greater than the dollars in the CARES Act, more than 50% of those allocations will be available for the Institutional Portion. These $77 billion in HEER funds are being allocated directly to schools by a formula based primarily on their enrollments, with an emphasis on the Pell grant eligibility of their full time students. The projected amounts of HEER funding that will go to a particular school can be found in tables developed for each bill by the American Council of Education.

The ARP Act passed on 3/11/2021: $36 billion The CRRSA Act passed on 12/27/2020: $27 billion

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