In order to mitigate the effect of the pandemic on institutions, the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) was passed to provide emergency funding to colleges and universities. Thousands of schools across the country are using HEERF funds to keep students enrolled and on track to graduate.
Colleges are seeking guidance, best practices, and strategies to make the most of these funding dollars so they can survive (and thrive!) through the pandemic and beyond. Now that colleges. In this article, we answer some frequently asked questions regarding HEERF and share 5 innovative ways to utilize funds.
What is Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF)?
Many students faced unexpected challenges with housing, food, technology, etc. when colleges were forced to clear campus and shift to a virtual environment. Likewise, institutions also suffered, taking on additional expenses to continue operating in a virtual environment. As a result, HEERF funds were distributed to institutions to help alleviate some costs associated with the disruption of campus operations due to the COVID-19 crisis.
What can HEERF funds be used for?
Institutions are required to distribute at least 50% of the funds to students in the form of financial aid grants. The remaining funds can be used to cover expenses that help your school prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19. Some examples include:
- Reimbursement for expenses already incurred due to coronavirus
- Technology, software, and infrastructure costs from shift to online learning
- Faculty and staff training (distance learning, health protocols)
- Reimbursable for lost revenue as a result of COVID-19
- Implement practices to monitor and suppress coronavirus (I.e testing sites)
What is the deadline to spend HEERF funds?
After receiving the grant, institutions have a one-year spending period to use the funds. If your institution received additional HEERF funds, your one-year spending period will be reset. This means you will have one year to spend all (both previous and forthcoming)HEERF funds from the date of the most recent grant.
5 Innovative Ways to Use HEERF Funds at Your Institution
As we emerge on the other side of the pandemic, colleges are looking for creative, strategic, and acceptable opportunities to use their remaining HEERF funds. Because retention and reengagement activities are HEERF-eligible, institutions can invest in student success initiatives, as they pertain to COVID-19.
Colleges are investing in personalized video messaging platforms, like Covideo, to engage students, reacclimate them to campus, and ensure student success. Personalized videos are short, one-off messages that are tailored to each individual. They replace text-heavy emails with a friendly face, human touch, and authentic voice – making outreach more effective. Videos are displayed on branded landing pages for your school, accompanied by custom CTA buttons to drive action.
We’re highlighting 5 creative ways teams are using personalized video in response to COVID-19, making it an acceptable use of HEERF funds.
1. Prioritize mental health and wellness
It’s no doubt that COVID-19 has significantly increased feelings of anxiety, depression, and isolation among individuals – specifically in young adults. According to a recent study by BestColleges.com, 95% of college students have experienced negative mental health symptoms as a result of COVID-19-related circumstances. In addition, nearly half (48%) believe the mental health effects have directly affected their education.
Now more than ever, students are asking for support from their schools. As a result, institutions are making more resources and tools available to students, while also continuing the conversation and raising awareness of the importance of mental health.
Institutions are able to use HEERF grants toward mental health efforts, whether that towards hiring additional counselors, offering telehealth services, or better-utilizing technology – to name a few.
Specifically, schools are using personalized video to connect more meaningfully with students, letting them know you’re here and care for them. Video is a more authentic and genuine way to express your message, offering more comfort and support – all of which often gets lost in a plain text message. In addition to offering personalized support, colleges can use Covideo to share webinars and information that focus on health and wellness and attach additional resources in the form of CTA buttons on their landing page. For example, UCLA created a COVID-19 care package featuring videos and resources from its psychologists that are designed to offer support and ease anxiety and depression.
2. Reacclimate students to campus
Many students are having a difficult time adjusting back to campus life after being remote. Coming back to campus poses many challenges, such as re-establishing a routine, managing time, and navigating the social scene after isolation.
Colleges want to make the transition easier on students, and are using personalized video as a stepping stone to re-engage and reintroduce them to campus and interactions.
By recording a short video welcoming students back to campus and detailing what to expect, individuals can feel a sense of comfort and reduce fears. Likewise, using video is a helpful resource to answer student questions in detail, walkthrough COVID-19 protocols, and raise excitement for having everyone back in person.
One school started a campaign using Covideo, where they asked students to record a short video sharing what they’re most excited about for their return. The school compiled the responses into a large video to share with the student body. This created a sense of community and camaraderie, both of which contribute to beating summer melt, and even COVID-19 melt.
3. Improve financial aid outreach
Families are often confused, overwhelmed, and unaware of how to navigate the financial aid system to make college more accessible and affordable.
With HEERF funds, families are able to receive adjusted financial aid packages if their circumstances changed after their FASFA was filed (due to the pandemic.) It’s a requirement for all institutions to perform direct outreach to students, notifying them about this opportunity. Another strategic use case is to allocate HEERF funds towards improving financial aid communication so it’s more clear, detailed, and easier to understand.
Student Ready Strategies shared, “Institutions that do effective financial aid outreach are more student-ready because they guide students to the financial resources they need to enroll in and succeed in college.” They also put together a guide that outlines three tactics to create student-centered financial communications outreach. We’ve elaborated on their efforts below.
- Focus messaging on how students can take action rather than getting caught in the details. With video, you’re able to show rather than tell. Use Covideo’s screen share feature to show exactly what students need to do to take action. Likewise, you can answer specific questions or FAQs in detail, making it easier to explain and comprehend compared to plain text. Research suggests that 95% of a message is understood when watching a video, compared to just 10% when reading text.
- Create personalized, conversational messages across a variety of platforms. Every student comes from different financial backgrounds, therefore a one-size-fits-all message will not work here. Eliminate mass emails and instead tailor the message to each individual’s circumstances. If deciding between two colleges, parents and students will appreciate the personalized guidance your team offers – setting a precedent of what type of experience they can expect from your school.
- Ensure communication channels are two-way or make it easy for students to take action with one click. Nowadays, in order to engage your audience and drive action, you need to make it easy. Utilize texting to encourage two-way conversations. Or, use Covideo CTA buttons to attach relevant links, PDFs, or FAQ videos on your video landing page. This way, when your message is viewed, they can click a button and be directed to wherever they need to go. This not only increases engagement but moves students through the enrollment process.
4. Contribute to student success in a virtual classroom
Even on the other side of the pandemic, virtual learning is here and here to stay. Likewise, offering virtual options is a great way to attract students. However, given the distance that comes with virtual learning, you want to maximize student success even from afar.
Schools are using personalized video in the classroom to increase retention and student performance. Covideo enables teachers to make content more accessible, easier to retain and comprehend, and ultimately sets students up for academic success.
- Provide Video Feedback: Screencast students’ assignments to provide more detailed, comprehensive feedback and offer one-on-one support.
- Teach Beyond the Classroom: Walkthrough lesson plans, presentations, and assignments for students to watch on their own time and to refer back to when in need of a refresher.
- Host Virtual Office Hours: Elaborate on students’ questions, and share your screen to further explain lesson plans and topics – all done without having to coordinate schedules to jump on a live video call.
5. Make enrollment more inclusive
Colleges are using personalized video as a means to communicate back and forth with students to offer a more inclusive opportunity for all students, regardless of income. Traveling to colleges for campus visits, tours, or events can be costly, especially for families with lower incomes, or who have had financial challenges due to the pandemic. With Covideo, admissions counselors can record personalized tours geared towards the students interests, answer questions in detail, and share insights from other students / teachers based on the prospect’s interests. Students are able to still have personalized experiences and interactions with your school, albeit being virtual. This creates an equal opportunity for all students who may not be able to afford to travel back and forth to visit a campus.
Using HEERF Grants on Personalized Video
Interested to learn more about how colleges are using personalized video at their college with their HEERF funds? Talk to a video expert that will help your team strategize on a video plan that makes sense for you and your goals!