Administrators at postsecondary institutions experienced little trouble drawing down Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds (HEERF) during the past year but were entangled by reams of red tape and complex guidance, according to a new study released by three organizations.
The report from the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA), NASPA and MDRC highlights challenges faced by colleges in their quest to get quick relief to students in need during the COVID-19 pandemic. From burdensome reporting requirements to confusing legislative language to training offers that came too late, the majority of administrators polled said improvements to the process would be welcome.
“Creating and implementing the HEERF emergency grant programs was no small feat,” said NASFAA President Justin Draeger. “We commend lawmakers and the Department of Education for recognizing a dire need and taking quick action to provide some relief, as well as the financial aid offices that worked tirelessly to get vital aid dollars into the hands of struggling students. The need for emergency aid programs for college students persists, and we urge lawmakers to develop a more permanent federal emergency aid program.”
Administrators said they want more “flexibility in selecting recipients and want emergency aid to be exempt from estimated financial aid.” Nearly half desire to have emergency aid fall outside of Title IV programs.
NAFSAA, NASPA and MDRC, which received a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for their research, agreed, saying policymakers should heed those wishes and boost aid to distance education students; provide clearer communication on the use of funds and reporting, and offer more timely training for those looking for assistance.....