Back to Resources

Using the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) to Support Students

By Trip Starkey, 9/6/2022

In a Mental Health in Higher Education Roundtable, hosted by the American Council on Education, United States Surgeon General, Vivek H. Murthy, discussed the unique circumstances facing mental health in higher education. In tandem with the drastic increase in student mental health concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Murthy noted that students are also now leaving college at an alarming rate (~1.3 million students have left college since the beginning of the pandemic). Many of these students cite inadequate support related to mental health needs as a primary reason for deciding to leave school.

While discussing how we, as a country, can better address these mental health needs in higher education, the Surgeon General also highlighted the importance of both institutions and the government continuing to fund programming that can better support student needs. He is quoted as saying: “We tend to fund things in crisis mode, as opposed to providing the sustained funding that we need,” he said. “Periodic injections of support are important, but we’ve got to continue that investment long term.” (source: The Chronicle of Higher Education)

One key funding opportunity available to many institutions that bolsters student success and well-being support is through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund. Created as part of The American Rescue Plan in 2021, HEERF grants injected approximately $39.6 billion in relief funding to colleges and universities across the United States as a means to help address student needs related to the pandemic. In addition to releasing multiple rounds of funding, The U.S. Department of Education has also sought to increase the impact of the HEERF grants by extending their performance period through June 30, 2023

On their website, the Department of Education provides guidance on specific ways that HEERF grants can support mental health for college students. HEERF grants can provide services, strengthen resources, offer connections to long-term care, and help institutions build long-lasting mental health impact. The document notes: “The funding can support initial investments in high-impact mental health projects related to the pandemic and also to establish the groundwork for long-term mental health resources. These efforts can mitigate long lasting impacts on the mental health of students, faculty, and staff. . . .”

Using HEERF for a YOU at College Partnership:

The YOU at College founding principle is that a comprehensive approach to well-being is a key driver of student success, retention, and graduation. Funding available through HEERF grants can be used to partner with any of our well-being solutions. If you’re an administrator looking for a YOU at College partnership, please send an email to or request a demo to strategize ways your HEERF dollars can cultivate a campus-wide culture of well-being.

crisis support
crisis tools
mental health
student support