US Education Department Releases Third COVID-19 Handbook to Support Higher Education’s Safe Reopening

The US Department of Education has published the third COVID-19 Handbook “Strategies for Safe Operation and Addressing the Impact of COVID-19 on Higher Education Students, Faculty, and Staff,” which includes additional strategies for higher education institutions and communities while they aim to return to in-person learning safely.

According to a press release issued by the US Department of Education, the latter has worked with public health officials and other partners in the Biden-Harris Administration to make sure that the Handbook provides “actionable strategies IHEs can use to implement CDC guidance to prevent and mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”

“Many of our nation’s postsecondary students have experienced the toughest year in their educational careers,” US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona pointed out.

He further said that every resource should be used to make sure that higher education students can engage again with their school communities, continue their higher education as well as graduate ready to pursue their dreams.

The third COVID-19 Handbook addresses several priority areas important for the higher education community, which include:

  • Practices to help higher education institutions implement CDC guidance, including ways to offer and promote the COVID-19 vaccination and mitigation strategies.
  • Identifying prevention strategies and showing how IHEs can take actions with Higher Education Emergency Relief (HEERF) grant funding from three relief bills.
  • Describing how IHEs have responded to the continuous COVID-19 challenges, in particular challenges of students in underserved communities, by supporting student’s transition to online education and addressing their basic needs.
  • Highlighting how IHEs have been supporting and continue to support their communities’ continual response and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Offering a catalog of resources and administrative flexibilities to IHEs.

“Volume 3 of the Handbook incorporated feedback from IHEs and over 40 organizations representing stakeholders and institutions across 15 listening sessions, and was developed in response to some of the most pressing questions the Department heard from colleges, students, families, educators, and others impacted by the pandemic,” the Department’s press release reads.

Nearly $76 billion in Higher Education Emergency Relief Funding (HEERF) has been allocated for IHEs to support students and education institutions affected by the pandemic. The amount has been made available under the ARP, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES), and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA).

Volume 1 and 2 of the COVID-19 Handbook were released earlier this year, and both focus on strategies to support the reopening of K-12 schools and consider how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected K-12 students, educators, and communities.

In a bid to offer financial support to students in the United States, this year, the US Department of Education also launched the Summer Learning & Enrichment Collaborative platform as part of the American Rescue Plan relief.

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