Governor Greg Abbott announced that he has allocated more than $94 million in federal relief money to help Texas students and institutions of higher learning recover in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding comes from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEERF), part of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and is a one-time allocation for educational stabilization. The funds will be distributed by the state’s Higher Education Coordinating Board to encourage college students to seek degrees and certificates specifically in areas experiencing labor shortages. It will also be used for academic support programs for new students and returning students whose academic progress was interrupted by COVID-19.

Gov. Abbott wants to invest in higher education as Texas continues its pandemic recovery efforts. In a press release, the Governor said, “This additional funding in higher education is an investment in job opportunities, our state’s economy, and a brighter future for Texas.” He noted further, “As we move forward from the pandemic, it is critical that we continue to support higher education to ensure more Texans are trained to face dynamic and unique challenges that will set them apart from others, and make them more competitive, in their field.”

Extra funding for education is crucial to the pandemic recovery in Texas, according to the State. The $94.6 million will be divided to apply in ways the State views as most impactful. Just over $48 million will be set aside to help schools start new programs or expand current ones so students can earn credentials in fields with employee shortages that developed due to job eliminations in response to pandemic stay-at-home orders; these programs will target areas with the greatest need, such as health care and technology. Another $28+ million will be used to increase student enrollment and provide extra support as they return to college. The final $18 million or so will be divided: some will be used to start My Texas Future, a student advising program, and some will be used to create the GradTX program which will help adult students who never completed college to finish their academic programs.

Public community college and university leaders are sure to be relieved at the Governor’s decision. They have advocated for extra higher education funding, calling colleges and universities the best places for Texans to update current skills and learn new skills so they can pivot and reenter the workforce successfully after many jobs were eliminated during the pandemic.

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Written by Erika Mehlhaff