CARES Act: Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund Supporting Students

AACTE Responds to COVID-19


The CARES Act, signed into law on March 27, 2020, included nearly $14 billion to support higher education institutions and students. This funding included $6.28 billion to provide cash grants to students for expenses related to disruptions to their education due to COVID-19. The funds move from the U.S. Department of Education to the institutions of higher education, and the institutions disperse the funds to students.

The allocation to each institution is set by a formula established in the CARES Act, weighted by the number of full-time students with Pell grants but also considers the total population of the school and the number of students who were not enrolled full-time in online programs pre-COVID-19. (View the methodology. It is important to note that this initial disbursement is for 50% of what is in the allocation table.) The institution must fill out a Certificate of Agreement with the Department to receive the disbursement via U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos wrote a letter to college and university presidents sharing guidance on this disbursement.

The next step for the Department is to disburse guidance and the remaining 50% of the allocation directly to institutions of higher education, which is expected in the coming weeks.

Questions on this program can be directed to or to Chris McCaghren, deputy assistant secretary for higher education at 202-453-7337 or .

Deborah Koolbeck

Senior Director of Government Relations, AACTE