College students and their higher education institutions are about to get thrown a lifeline by the federal government as the U.S. Department of Education, through the recently passed American Rescue Plan (ARP), has awarded New Mexico public and Tribal colleges and universities $207 million in emergency relief, with half of the money targeted to help students in need.
"As we move forward from the pandemic, the federal emergency relief funding going directly to students and higher education institutions, in addition to state financial aid programs and resources, are more critical than ever," said Stephanie Rodriguez, Secretary of the New Mexico Higher Education Department.
The federal funding will support students with financial needs, including those who are eligible for need-based Pell Grants. It will address unexpected expenses, lost jobs or wages, and food or housing insecurity.
Colleges and universities can use the funds to forgive student debt, provide student services at reduced costs, support distance learning or technology upgrades and expand access to mental health resources.
Higher education institutions are also required to use a portion of the funds to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and support efforts to vaccinate students and staff.
The federal monies, which totaled $39.6 billion for all 50 states, come from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HERF). Colleges and universities previously received relief funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES), and the Governor's Education Emergency Relief Fund (GEER).
"UNM-Taos is centered on helping our students earn their certificates and degrees, and we will allocate these newly available resources according to the guidelines that we have been provided, which will benefit the students who need it most," said Cynthia Rooney, University of New Mexico-Taos Interim Chancellor.
"The challenges of this pandemic have impacted all of us -- students, faculty and staff," said Rooney. "We understand that many students continue to experience significant financial hardship that extend beyond the current academic semester, and we are excited to be able to offer assistance to our UNM-Taos students."