February 24, 2022
Eight states and one territory are asking the Department of Education to waive a requirement that stipulates they must continue funding higher education at or above current levels in order to keep the federal dollars they received during the pandemic.
Each state provided its own justification for the request, but some higher education leaders worry that states’ failure to maintain appropriations will hurt higher education funding levels in future years.
All three federal pandemic stimulus bills included a maintenance-of-effort requirement that states must meet if they want to keep the federal dollars. The CARES Act stipulated that states that received support from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund must maintain state support for higher education during fiscal years 2020 and 2021 that is at or above average levels of state support during fiscal years 2017, 2018 and 2019. The subsequent Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act and American Rescue Plan say the same for fiscal year 2022.
Congress uses maintenance-of-effort requirements to ensure states continue to fund public programs, said Luis Maldonado, vice president for government relations and policy analysis at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.
“The maintenance of effort is one of the mechanisms that federal policy makers use to make sure that states continue to make the necessary investments as a result of the federal government helping them through a particular situation or supporting a particular program,” Maldonado said.
The Department of Education has yet to approve or deny the waiver requests, but either decision could have an impact on higher education funding in those states. If the waivers are approved, those states may lower their own contributions to higher education funding while the budgets are supplemented by federal dollars. If the waivers are denied, states must maintain their higher education funding levels or return the federal aid.