These Schools Received the Most Funds From the American Rescue Plan

Schools in large states with a high percentage of Pell Grant recipients were awarded the largest amount of funds.
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  • The American Rescue Plan provided nearly $40 billion to higher education institutions.
  • It is one of the largest one-time infusions of funding to U.S. colleges and universities.
  • An analysis shows schools in large states like California and Texas got the most funds.

Colleges in Arizona, Florida, Texas, and the California State University system were among the biggest beneficiaries of federal aid awarded through the American Rescue Plan.

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) this month released a state-by-state breakdown of the nearly $40 billion in Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds (HEERF) authorized by the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill signed into law in March 2021.

In total, the plan provided more than $10 billion to over 1,000 community colleges, more than $2.7 billion to historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and approximately $11 billion to Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs).

“According to the department's data, at least 25 schools throughout the country each received more than $100 million in funds”

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According to the department's data, at least 25 schools throughout the country each received more than $100 million in funds. An analysis of the data shows schools in Arizona, Florida, Texas, and the California State University system faring the best.

California institutions received nearly $5.3 billion in total, with California State University system schools in Northridge, Fullerton, Long Beach, Los Angeles, and Sacramento bringing in approximately $615 million. The Golden State's community colleges were awarded approximately $2.1 billion, with Mount San Antonio College receiving $63 million. Pasadena City College and Long Beach City College each received approximately $55 million.

Texas schools received more than $3.4 billion for higher education. Community colleges in the state were awarded nearly $1 billion, including $122.8 million for Houston Community College and more than $92 million for Tarrant County College District. HBCUs in the Lone Star State were awarded nearly $304 million, with Texas Southern University taking in more than $90 million and Prairie View A&M University collecting more than $84 million.

Nearly $2.4 billion in federal relief funds flowed to Florida. Big awards in the Sunshine State went to Miami Dade College and the University of Central Florida, which were awarded $184.7 million and $165 million, respectively. Florida International University was also one of the schools with the largest awards, receiving $128.4 million. Community colleges in Florida were awarded approximately $163 million, and the state's four HBCUs received more than $156 million.

Arizona schools received more than $716 million. Tempe-based Arizona State University received $194.6 million, and the University of Arizona was awarded nearly $89 million. The state's community colleges were awarded approximately $308 million — with Pima County Community College receiving nearly $41 million, Glendale Community College receiving just over $35 million, and Mesa Community College receiving nearly $33 million.

The amount of funds given to each institution was determined by a combination of the schools' relative share of enrollment of Federal Pell Grant recipients, non-Pell Grant recipients, and those who were exclusively enrolled in distance-learning programs pre-pandemic.

Last February, the department updated its guidance on how schools should spend their HEERF funds. It expects at least half of these funds to be used to provide direct financial relief to students.

ED recommends that schools use their HEERF funds to:

  • Support students with childcare needs by expanding the capacity of on-campus childcare centers or subsidizing childcare costs for students.
  • Aid students experiencing food insecurity through meal vouchers, expanded food pantries, and universal meal programs.
  • Lighten the transportation burden by covering the cost of public transportation for students or provide free/discounted parking on campus.
  • Reduce academic costs like those for textbooks and tutoring through voucher programs.
  • Supplement housing costs for both on- and off-campus students experiencing housing insecurity.
  • Provide more healthcare and mental health services by expanding on-campus healthcare centers and mental health support services.

A recent survey of college presidents by the American Council on Education showed how direct financial relief to students was playing out. According to the survey, HEERF allowed:

  • 93% of colleges to provide direct relief to students at risk of dropping out.
  • 81% of schools to keep student net prices similar to pre-pandemic levels.
  • 70% to continue to employ faculty, staff, and other employees.
  • 63% of schools to keep on-campus populations safe through additional healthcare purchases.