In November 2023, The Education Trust released “Who Received Federal Emergency Aid Funding in Texas? A Closer Look at Pandemic Funding Awarded to Postsecondary Students,” which examined the distribution and impact of Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) aid at postsecondary institutions in Texas. Our analysis of publicly available 2021 data revealed that, despite having similar average amounts of unmet financial need, Texas students enrolled at public two-year colleges were less likely to receive emergency aid and received smaller average award amounts than students enrolled at public four-year universities.

Nearly 473,000 Texas community college students received an average emergency aid award of $1,400. Compared to public four-year colleges in Texas, community colleges in the state distributed aid to more non-Pell recipients than Pell recipients. While rates varied widely at individual institutions, those colleges that distributed aid to a larger percentage of their student body tended to have higher retention rates among first-time students.

Following this quantitative analysis, we wanted to better understand the context and decisions of community college leaders and practitioners who navigated the pandemic and distributed federal emergency relief funding and the experiences of students who received it. To gather insights directly from community college administrators and students, we conducted focus groups and disseminated an accompanying survey focused on the following questions:

  • How did practitioners interpret the purpose and goal of HEERF aid?
  • What factors influenced how practitioners designed their federal aid determination and distribution processes?
  • What data sources did practitioners rely upon to identify student need and distribute aid responsively?
  • What innovations or best practices emerged from the strategies institutions used to distribute HEERF aid?
  • How did students experience and access HEERF aid? How did students use the funds and how did these funds impact their educational trajectory?

Based on our qualitative analysis of stakeholder responses, this report spotlights challenges that various Texas institutions faced and the creative ways in which these institutions confronted them and offers recommendations organized around key findings.

Download the Report