RELEASE: New CAP Analysis Examines Higher Ed Spending Under the CARES Act

Washington, D.C. — Last month, Congress delivered another $23 billion in relief to help higher education institutions respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. And as the U.S. Department of Education doles out the second round of relief, a new Center for American Progress analysis of Education Department data shows how much remains of the $14 billion in funding that colleges received from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed in March 2020. The analysis also includes a downloadable spreadsheet with data at the institutional and state level.

CAP found that as of late November 2020, institutions had applied for and received $13 billion of the $14 billion provided by the CARES Act, and of the $13 billion that institutions received, three-quarters of the funds—or nearly $10 billion—have been spent. CAP’s analysis also uncovered that colleges have already spent 92 percent of the funds required to go toward students and that 44 percent of colleges have already spent all of their funding.

“Numerous associations representing institutions of higher education have indicated they will need as much as $120 billion to help their students and institutions weather the storm brought on by the coronavirus pandemic,” said Marshall Anthony Jr., senior policy analyst at CAP and co-author of the analysis. “CAP’s analysis of the data shows that, by and large, institutions are moving quickly to spend the majority of federal resources already delivered, including emergency grant aid for students. However, it’s clear that colleges and universities will need more support from the federal government in order to support students until we are on the other side of this crisis.”

Other takeaways from CAP’s analysis include:

  • The CARES Act required institutions to distribute about half of the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) to students in the form of emergency grant aid. Institutions that were awarded funds in 40 states and the District of Columbia have spent at least 90 percent of these funds. Institutions in Arizona have spent the lowest—69 percent.
  • Nearly two-thirds, or 65 percent, of institutional funds have been spent. Institutions in 36 states and the District of Columbia have spent at least 60 percent of these funds. Institutions in Hawaii have spent less than a third—31 percent—of their allocated funds.
  • The CARES Act provided funds to specific institution types in addition to the institutional funds that colleges of all types received. Compared with other minority-serving institutions (MSIs), Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) received the largest pot of funding, of which more than one-third—36 percent—has been spent.
  • Funds to tribally controlled colleges and universities, or TCCUs, represent the smallest pot out of all funding sources. Of these dollars, 44 percent have been used. Slightly more than one-third—34 percent—of funds to other MSIs have been spent.
  • Strengthening Institutions Program (SIP) funds are for institutions that do not meet the eligibility to be an MSI but have at least 50 percent of their students receiving need-based assistance. Nearly half—48 percent—of these funds have been spent.

Click here to read “The State of Higher Education Spending From the CARES Act” by Marshall Anthony Jr. and Marissa Navarro.

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