May 20, 2022
The Education Department on Thursday urged colleges to use Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds (HEERF) on mental health services on campus. The announcement provides college administrators with a clarification that HEERF funds can be used for needed mental health service improvements, which were originally not included in HEERF legislation.
“Mental health is overwhelmingly the top concern we hear from presidents,” said Jonathan Fansmith, the assistant vice president of government relations for the American Council on Education. “It’s a very challenging environment for institutions, and these things are expensive to do. So the ability to use some of these higher education relief funds that the federal government provided for those purposes is hugely helpful.”
HEERF provided $76.2 billion to colleges across the nation as part of federal emergency COVID-19 relief funding, including CARES, CRRSAA, and ARP to address urgent student needs during the pandemic. This guidance from the department not only signals to college administrators that the funding can be spent on mental health services but also provides examples of programs, resources and services colleges can implement to address rising rates of mental health struggles on college campuses from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
College students have increasingly struggled with anxiety and depression as a result of the pandemic, and college leaders have indicated that mental health is a top priority. Seventy-five percent of college presidents indicated mental health was a top concern according to a 2021 survey, and data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that 75 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds indicated they have experienced a mental health symptom in June 2020.