Survey of Pandemic Relief Spending and Recovery Strategies

The ARCC Network is surveying community colleges in six states to develop a deeper understanding of how colleges are using federal pandemic recovery funds, the recovery strategies they are funding, and their perceptions of which initiatives helped students and any unmet needs.

CCRC is leading the survey work in Michigan, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, and Texas, and PPIC is leading the survey in California, in collaboration with Wheelhouse. Together, the six states serve more than 40% of community college students. 

Congress appropriated Higher Education Emergency Relief (HEER) Funds through three pieces of COVID-19 relief legislation. The funds are an unprecedented direct federal investment in community colleges and students. About $19.3 billion was allocated to public, two-year colleges for direct student aid, technology, basic needs support, staff training, and other uses. But little detail is available about how colleges spent the money. This project—along with an analysis of federal data on pandemic recovery funds—will provide timely feedback to federal and state policymakers about the spending and unmet needs for colleges and students. 

This project is supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through Grant R305X220022 to Teachers College, Columbia University.



How Did Pandemic Recovery Funding Support California Community Colleges?

Public Policy Institute of California | May 2024

Olga Rodriguez, Daniel Payares-Montoya & Kevin Cook

The survey findings in this report explore how Higher Education Emergency Relief funding supported students and institutions during the pandemic and illuminate differences by key college-level demographic, district structure, and college characteristics. Findings may guide future funding and policy efforts and inform campus strategies.

Lead Researchers

Serena Klempin is a research associate at CCRC. She conducts qualitative research on advising and guided pathways and has done research on the role of higher education in addressing students’ basic needs. She can be reached at

Michal Kurlaender is the lead researcher at Wheelhouse and the Chancellor’s Leadership Professor at the University of California, Davis School of Education. She is an expert in higher education in California and studies high school to college pathways and access to and success in higher education. She can be reached at

Olga Rodriguez is director of the PPIC Higher Education Center and a senior fellow at PPIC. She works with a team of researchers to identify programs and policies to help make the state’s higher education system more successful, equitable, and sustainable. Her research focuses on college access and success among underserved students.

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