U.S Department of Education Releases COVID-19 Handbook Volume 3: Strategies for Safe Operation and Addressing the Impact of COVID-19 on Higher Education Students, Faculty, and Staff

U.S Department of Education Releases COVID-19 Handbook Volume 3: Strategies for Safe Operation and Addressing the Impact of COVID-19 on Higher Education Students, Faculty, and Staff

June 4, 2021

Today, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) released the COVID-19 Handbook Volume 3: Strategies for Safe Operation and Addressing the Impact of COVID-19 on Higher Education Students, Faculty, and Staff to provide additional strategies for higher education institutions (IHEs) and communities as they work to reopen for in-person instruction safely and equitably. The Department worked with public health officials and partners across the Biden-Harris Administration to ensure that the Handbook provides actionable strategies IHEs can use to implement CDC guidance to prevent and mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The Handbook also provides strategies on how higher education institutions can utilize funds from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) and previous relief bills to meet the needs of all students, boost vaccination rates on campus, and address inequities exacerbated by the pandemic, among other topics covered.

"Many of our nation's postsecondary students have experienced the toughest year in their educational careers," said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. "We must deploy every resource to bear to make sure all higher education students can reengage with their school communities, continue their education, and graduate ready to pursue their dreams. With the American Rescue Plan and key resources like Volume 3 of the COVID-19 Handbook, institutions of higher education will be able to not only protect the safety of students, educators, and staff, but also support those students who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic."

Today's release is part of the Administration's broader effort to provide schools and communities with the resources and support they need to return to in-person learning safely and quickly. Volume 3 of the COVID-19 Handbook addresses several priority areas of interest to the higher education community, with an eye towards both a response and a recovery that leaves our nation's students and institutions of higher education stronger than before the pandemic began. Areas include:

  • Providing practices to aid IHEs in implementing CDC guidance, such as ways to offer and promote the COVID-19 vaccination, and mitigation strategies to pursue for campuses where everyone is fully vaccinated, as well as campuses where not everyone is fully vaccinated. The Handbook also identifies common prevention strategies and provides examples of actions IHEs can take with Higher Education Emergency Relief (HEERF) grant funding from the three relief bills to pursue these efforts;
  • Describing the ways in which IHEs have responded to the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic—particularly challenges faced by underserved student populations—by supporting students' transition to online learning and addressing basic needs such as broadband access, financial assistance, housing, and childcare;
  • Noting ways in which IHEs have already been and can continue to be sources of support to their communities' ongoing response and recovery from the pandemic— including in vaccination efforts; and
  • Providing a catalog of the resources and administrative flexibilities offered to IHEs as they address rapidly changing conditions and needs on the ground, including resources that support both students and IHEs under the ARP.

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 Handbook incorporates a diversity of perspectives, experiences, and challenges facing our nation's postsecondary students, ranging from the full-time, on-campus recent high school graduate; to the older returning student seeking re-training through online, part-time programming while balancing work and parenting duties; to the middle-aged immigrant seeking English language skills, job training, and a high school equivalency with on-ramps into postsecondary education.

Under the ARP, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES), and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA), approximately $76 billion in Higher Education Emergency Relief Funding (HEERF) has been made available to IHEs to support students and IHEs impacted by the pandemic.

Earlier this year, the Department of Education released Volume 1 and Volume 2 of the COVID-19 Handbook, both of which focused on strategies to support the safe reopening of K-12 schools and address the impacts of COVID-19 on K-12 students, educators, and communities. The Department also launched the "Safer Schools and Campuses Best Practices Clearinghouse," which highlights lessons learned and best practices that can help IHEs identify opportunities to best use ARP and other relief funds to support students, faculty, and staff impacted by the pandemic, particularly those in underserved communities and those hardest hit by the pandemic. The Clearinghouse also provides resources and guidance for institutions as they work to reengage with students who have temporarily opted out of postsecondary education.