Federal Support to Institutions of Higher Education for COVID-19 Testing and other Mitigation Strategies
A joint statement from ACHA, ACUHO-I, and NASPA
Published February 3, 2022
Campuses continue to advance the health and well-being of their students during the COVID-19 pandemic. Successful, layered prevention strategies depend on close collaboration between campus health resources, housing and student affairs, among others. While not an exhaustive list of federal support, we would like to remind campuses about some of the federal resources available to institutions of higher education (IHE) to mitigate COVID-19 and provide direct aid to students.
Free Mail Order COVID-19 Tests
The federal government is providing four free COVID-19 testing kits to every U.S. residential address that requests them at www.covidtests.gov and at 1-800-232-0233 for those without internet access, while supplies last. However, many institutions of higher education have reported that students living in residence halls and shared housing (fraternities, sororities, student organizations, those with roommates or housemates at one address, etc.) are facing challenges with the mail order system. Furthermore, some campus addresses are not recognized by the postal service as residential, but rather as business addresses. ACHA, ACUHO-I, and NASPA are in regular communication with the U.S. Department of Education to resolve how the mail order system could work better for students in higher education. In the meantime, we encourage campuses to distribute individual test kits through existing infrastructure using Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds (HEERF) (see below).
Other Federal Support for COVID-19 Testing
Operation Expanded Testing | CDC provides no-cost laboratory-based testing to child care centers, K-12 schools, historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), under-resourced communities, and congregate settings, such as homeless shelters, domestic violence and abuse shelters, non-federal correctional facilities, and other qualified sites who have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Campuses in geographic areas or serving specific populations that are disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic that are not HBCUs may apply under the “other educational setting” category.
Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds
Many institutions of higher education have not exhausted their HEERF. For those campuses, there are updated opportunities for federal funding to enhance COVID-19 mitigation strategies on campus and provide direct aid to students. These funds can be used for a wide variety of purposes (see below) with differing amounts of staff time required for implementation. Some of the activities below are part of standard operations across offices and departments (e.g. supporting coping and resilience for students, developing training and communication systems to communicate with students).
Ask your institutional leadership if there are funds available for COVID-19 mitigation strategies and student support on your campus.
Procuring additional space both on or off campus to house students and supporting other costs associated with meeting the basic needs of students in isolation and quarantine.
- Providing academic support services and mental health services for students in isolation or quarantine.
- Supporting coping and resilience for students.
- Addressing food insecurity, childcare needs and emergency housing needs.
- Providing masks and other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to students, faculty, and staff.
- Supporting clean and sanitary campus environments, including purchasing hand sanitizer and handwashing stations that can be placed throughout the campus.
- Cleaning and disinfection.
- Enhancing ventilation in classrooms or common areas.
- Using mask campaigns to increase mask compliance on campus.
- Implementing physical distancing guidelines, such as modified layouts.
- Costs associated with vaccination efforts.
- Redesigning food service facilities.
- Developing training and communication systems to communicate with students.
- Costs associated with campus and local outreach promoting the benefits of vaccination as a virus-mitigation strategy.
- Setting up vaccination sites on or off campus to bring the vaccine to students, faculty, and staff, including costs of bringing sites to rural and satellite locations. Costs associated with building awareness and confidence of the vaccine among students is also allowable. Vaccines remain effective in preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death.
Reducing Barriers to Vaccination:
- Paying for time off for staff to get the vaccine.
- Providing sick leave to employees to get vaccinated.
- Spreading awareness and building confidence in getting vaccinated, including setting up clinics for students to receive vaccinations or other confidence and awareness building efforts.
- Establishing a diagnostic or surveillance testing strategy, such as setting up a test site, purchasing tests, or hiring additional personnel to administer tests.
- Hiring personnel to support contact tracing efforts in collaboration with local public health authorities.
- The installation or renovation of an HVAC system, to help with air filtration to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
- The purchase or lease of temporary trailer classroom units to increase social distancing.
- The purchase of or costs of installing“room dividers” within a previously completed building to increase social distancing.