CARES Act Emergency Grants for Higher Education

As higher education institutions and your students are encountering unique challenges and unexpected costs, the Department of Education has announced distribution of funding allocations under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The CARES Act provides approximately $14 billion in funding for higher education institutions with $12.56 billion distributed using a formula based upon student enrollment.

Student Enrollment Formula

The formula is weighted by the number of Pell-eligible full-time students and takes into consideration the total population of your school and the students not enrolled full-time in distance learning education before COVID-19. In making the calculation, the Department utilizes Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and Federal Student Aid (FSA) data. Allocations under the CARES Act can be found online.

Eligible Expenses under the CARES Act

Under the CARES Act legislation, no less than 50 percent of the funds can be used to provide cash grants to students for expenses related to disruptions in their education due to COVID-19. Eligible expenses include costs of attendance, such as course materials and technology, food, housing, health care and childcare. To prioritize this funding and help students in need, the Department announced on April 9th that funds for students will be distributed immediately.

Institutions are required to use the funds for expenses related to the disruption of campus operations. Discretion is provided to the institution on how the CARES Act emergency assistance funding will be awarded. How the funds are allocated to students is a process that is developed by each institution. However, the Department recommends the maximum Pell Grant as the maximum for the emergency grants to students. These emergency grants are not considered Federal financial aid. As the institution develops this process and disburses funds, it is also important to ensure appropriate supporting documentation is maintained. Your institution is responsible for reporting to the Department how awards are calculated and distributed.

Withdrawing Funds

Funds will be available to draw down via the G5 system. Your institution must sign and return the Certificate of Funding and Agreement (which is available through and can be read here).  After the certificate has been received, the funds can be drawn. An item of note in the Certification that may impact some institutions includes that there is a provision that funds may not be used to reimburse costs already incurred and/or refunds previously issued.

Continuing Developments & Guidance

At this time, ONLY the student portion of funds has been approved. The Department is continuing to work on developing guidance on the institutional share of funds, which will be available for costs associated with the change in delivery of instruction. Resource pages available through the Department to provide additional guidance include CARES Act: Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund and COVID-19 Information and Resources.

Our experts are paying close attention to developments in legislation and for solutions to assist your higher education institution during these difficult times. Please contact our team to talk about your individual situation.


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