COVID-19 Emergency Funding and California Higher Education Systems – Public Policy Institute of California | Team Cansler

Additional study support

While half of the federal funds were to be passed on directly to the students for specific purposes, institutions were also able to spend part of their institutional share of the fund on students. Collectively, public institutions spent approximately $638 million (21% of total institutional spending) on ​​additional student funding (Figure 4). This additional study support includes additional emergency aid; reimbursements for accommodation, room and board; other fee refunds; and tuition reductions. Most of this (59%) went to tuition reimbursement, followed by additional financial assistance (36%). At one campus we surveyed, we funded student basic needs by funding the student pantry and providing gift cards for groceries. Several community colleges also waived student debt on courses and services, allowing for student re-enrollment.

ancillary income replacement

Many of the campus’ non-academic sources of income have been impacted by the pandemic. Public agencies spent approximately $552 million (20% of total spending) on ​​their replacement. Campus mentioned many different sources of lost revenue in its quarterly reports, but the most common were parking lots, dining, bookstores, sports, and childcare facilities. Some less common examples were campus rentals by outside organizations, police operations, and museums.

Substitute for Registration Revenue

Many institutions lost revenue due to a drop in enrollment, and while it was brief for some campuses, it’s still ongoing for others. Public institutions spent a total of $370 million (17% of total spending) to replace revenue related to reduced or late enrollment. This includes lost income from tuition, fees, institutional fees, room and board, rejected enrollments, assisted research, summer semesters, and summer camps. Many colleges recorded lost tuition due to enrollment declines among resident and non-resident students. The 2021 state budget reduced campus funding by 3–5 percent, which some campuses later claimed in this category. This allowed them to mitigate the effects of the temporary cut until funding was restored and increased the following year.

Social distancing and health

California institutions spent approximately $370 million (15% of total spending) to keep their campuses and students safe during the pandemic. These included the cost of subsidizing off-campus housing or the cost of housing to isolate students or provide space to help stop the spread of infection, adding classes and subsidizing meal services to help social distancing, to enable the general security and operation of the campus, including cleaning and personal protective equipment. and purchasing additional classroom equipment to limit sharing and allow time for disinfection. Most of that money was spent on campus security, which included personal protective equipment. testing; and modernization of heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. Campuses we surveyed mentioned using the funding to purchase materials for lab courses and ship them to students, or to provide PPE kits for in-person instruction. Many also mentioned incentives to encourage their students to get vaccinated; For example, one campus offered $100 gift cards to spend at its campus bookstore.

online lessons

Most courses at most institutions have been moved online. California public colleges and universities spent approximately $344 million (14% of total spending) on ​​the transition. This has included providing students with additional technology hardware such as laptops or tablets, purchasing training for faculty and staff in online classrooms, or paying additional personal trainers, and purchasing equipment or software to enable distance learning. Several campuses found that a reliable, high-speed internet connection was the number one barrier to participating in distance learning. In quarterly reports, many campuses said they provide Wi-Fi hotspots for students and faculty and purchase monthly data plans on their behalf. Others pointed out that wireless services are expanding in campus parking lots and other nearby outdoor locations to give faculty and students without reliable internet a place to teach and learn.

Other costs

California’s public institutions also spent $352 million (13% of the total) in other categories. Federal regulations allowed institutions to use the “Other” category funds to cover expenses such as lost revenue, reimbursement of expenses already incurred, technology costs associated with a transition to distance learning, faculty and staff training, and payroll. Not all campuses provided information about these costs, but those that did mention indirect costs, lost government funds, outreach to students, staff health, and shipping supplies to students and faculty. Also, many of the notes point to items that might fit into other categories—a point made by the state auditor early in the pandemic (Auditor of the State of California 2021). For example, some campuses required student parking fee refunds, COVID tracking and tracing, loss of revenue from government funds, and books and supplies as “other” expenses, while others placed them in one of the 14 main expense categories. Also, most “other” editions are not annotated, making analysis difficult.

Spending patterns varied over time

Interviews with university officials revealed that the rules governing institutional spending under the CARES Act were initially unclear. They found that online information from the US Department of Education, federal webinars, interviews with other institutions, and guidance from system offices were used to determine the appropriate use of funding. The second (CRRSA) and third (ARP) rounds included significantly more funding and came with looser, clearer rules that allowed colleges to address a broader range of needs and claim many more enrollment and aid revenues.

As a result of changes in rules and likely changes in demand, campuses spent early funds differently than later rounds. While there was significant investment in additional student finance in both periods, later spending was more evenly distributed across categories (Figure 5). From fall 2020 through spring 2021, universities spent 52 percent of CARES Act dollars in the student funding category, while very little (10%) went to replacement income (Figure 5). In the four quarters that followed, following rule changes, a much smaller proportion went to student funding (15%) and a much higher proportion to revenue replacement (45%) and social distancing and campus safety (14%).

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