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Kvaal outlines impact of COVID-19 funding on higher education

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The three rounds of COVID-19 aid funds for higher education handed by Congress in 2020 and early 2021 have had a “significant impact on students and institutions” and made a “tremendous difference,” Department of Education below secretary James Kvaal instructed lawmakers Wednesday.

The House Education and Labor Committee held a subcommittee listening to to conduct oversight of how establishments have been utilizing the $76 billion invested within the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF). Kvaal mentioned the funds helped college students keep enrolled in school, helped establishments meet public well being wants and keep away from mass layoffs, and stored some personal and public nonprofit faculties from closing.

“HEERF has had a real impact on students, on their colleges,” Kvaal mentioned. “For example, I recently received a letter from President Daniel Phelan of Jackson College in Michigan describing how HEERF helped pay for student tuition and fees, food, housing, course materials, medical and mental health care, and childcare.”

A latest survey of 400 school presidents performed by the American Council on Education discovered that HEERF funds allowed 93 % of faculties to offer emergency scholarships to college students, 88 % of faculties to buy COVID-19 exams and meet different public well being wants, 80 % of faculties to offer college students with digital units and web entry to maintain them enrolled, 70 % of faculties to proceed to make use of college and employees in danger of unemployment, and 18 % of faculties in danger of closing to proceed working.

At least half of the HEERF funds supplied to establishments have been required for use on emergency help to college students. Kvaal famous that greater than seven million college students have been in a position to take benefit of $6 billion in emergency grant help, with every pupil receiving a mean of $850.

As of final Friday, faculties have spent 65 % of their whole HEERF pupil funds and 54 % of their whole HEERF institutional funds. Those percentages proceed to rise each week and don’t embody commitments that schools and universities have already made for his or her remaining HEERF {dollars} however have but to make use of, mentioned Kvaal.

Several lawmakers expressed issues about how the division was making certain that establishments are utilizing funds for his or her supposed objective, as prescribed by legislation.

“The investments we delivered to colleges and universities provided a lifeline to students and may have prevented the financial collapse of our higher education system,” mentioned Representative Frederica Wilson, a Democrat from Florida and chair of the Higher Education and Workforce Investments subcommittee. “The Education Department must continue to ensure that institutions are using this funding responsibly to support their students, faculty and staff, and that states are holding up their end of the bargain by maintaining their investments in higher education.”

The high Republican on the higher education subcommittee, Representative Greg Murphy of North Carolina, mentioned that as recipients of authorities funds, establishments of higher education should not exempt from congressional oversight and accountability, as a result of taxpayers should understand how these funds are being spent.

“It is Congress and this department’s responsibility to ensure that colleges and universities spend taxpayer dollars in a way that helps students—not hire more administrators or grow more nonacademic programs—which is why I’m happy that we are having this hearing today,” Murphy mentioned. “Unfortunately, however, I share the concern of many of my colleagues that the department is too focused on implementing their progressive wish list and attacking colleges based upon their tax status to carry out their necessary oversight.”

According to Kvaal, the division has taken steps to make sure the right use of HEERF funds by publishing clear, complete steering; creating quarterly and annual reporting necessities; working with the Office of Management and Budget to designate the funds as high-risk in order that they’ll be prioritized by auditors; imposing extra oversight for faculties which are “financially risky”—in any other case generally known as these below Heightened Cash Monitoring 2; imposing extra audit necessities on grantees that weren’t in any other case required to conduct audits; and requiring for-profit school presidents and main house owners to signal certification kinds indicating that they’re conscious of all the necessities for the funds.

“We have worked very hard to make sure all colleges are spending funds within the allowable uses outlined by Congress,” Kvaal mentioned.