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A survey by the American Association of Community Colleges of member institutions showed that community colleges received more than $23 billion in Higher Education Emergency Relief Funding (HEERF), which accounts for nearly a third of their annual pre-pandemic expenditures.

The survey found that most community colleges spent HEERF on direct payments to students and financial assistance, including relieving institutional student debt, as well as increasing technological capabilities like providing laptops to students, increasing broadband access and increasing student services.

Specific data on how much was spent at each institution were not made available to the public.

David Baime, senior vice president of the American Association of Community Colleges, said that on community college campuses, HEERF money was able to be go much further compared to other sectors of higher education because per-pupil spending at community colleges is already much lower.

HEERF provided $76.2 billion to colleges across the nation. Funding was distributed based on the number of students enrolled at a university, with a majority of the funding based on the number of Pell-eligible students attending that university.

“A gold-plated university that spends many, many multiples more per student than a community college still got the same payment per student that a community college did,” said Baime. “This was a significant bolstering of colleges’ finances at a very difficult time.”