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Continuing the Federal Investment in Emergency Aid Grants

August 16, 2023

  • Bryce

    Bryce McKibben

    • Lewis Katz School of Medicine

      • The Hope Center

        • Senior Director of Policy and Advocacy

During the pandemic, Congress made the first-ever federal investment in emergency aid grants for college students. This flexible form of financial aid helps students afford the unexpected expenses that can otherwise throw them off track from a degree or credential. Congress eventually allocated nearly $40 billion for emergency aid—turbocharging a popular state and institutional innovation.

The federal investment in this direct assistance kept millions of students enrolled during an unprecedented and tumultuous time. But widespread basic needs insecurity in higher education remains, and the pandemic relief money has dried up. What's next for the federal role in emergency aid?

This brief, Making College Financial Aid Flexible and Responsive: The Case for Continuing the Federal Investment in Emergency Grants, recommends a simple way to continue successful policy through an existing federal program. Specifically, it details why Congress should allow the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG) program to operate permanently as emergency aid. Colleges and financial aid offices were granted the flexibility to award SEOG as emergency aid during the pandemic and transfer their Federal Work-Study allocations into SEOG. Federal policymakers could easily revive these flexibilities to help millions of students meet their basic needs and stay on track to graduate.