How HEERF Helps Higher Education Institutions Defray Technology Costs

Institutions of higher education faced enormous challenges over the past year due to COVID-19 and were forced to innovate faster than ever before. The pandemic sent students home from campus, forced classes to move online, and interrupted events from athletic games to commencement ceremonies. To help institutions of higher education navigate the uncertainty and cover unexpected budget shortfalls caused by COVID-19, Congress authorized tens of billions in stimulus funds for higher education.

First, in March 2020, the CARES Act authorized approximately $14 billion to establish the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) I and provided funds for financial aid grants for students and funds to cover costs associated with significant changes to the delivery of instruction due to the coronavirus. The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA), enacted in December 2020, authorized $21.2 billion in additional funds for HEERF II. Most recently, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), enacted in March 2021, authorized $39.6 billion in additional funds for HEERF III. 

Under CARES, CRRSAA, and ARPA, nonprofit institutions of higher education may use the institutional portion of HEERF to defray certain expenses associated with the coronavirus. One such expense is technology costs associated with the transition to distance education due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In using stimulus funds to transition to online and remote learning, institutions should also be careful to document how the funds were used to respond to the pandemic. Nonetheless, institutions can think creatively about how to use HEERF funds for technological infrastructure improvements that address pandemic initiated transitions to distance education. 

The Docusign Agreement Cloud can help institutions of higher education address COVID-19 related transitions to distance education. As the transition to remote learning has made traditional pen and paper processes more difficult, several Docusign products may be able to assist by simplifying digital agreements and other interactions that relate to institutional shifts to distance education due to the coronavirus. 

The Docusign Agreement Cloud for Education, Docusign eSignature, and Docusign Contract Life Management (CLM) can each help institutions defray costs associated with the past year and a half’s disruption to normal campus operations and plan for a safe return to in-person instruction. In addition to supporting safer digital interactions, Docusign products also make transactions easier, faster, greener, more cost-efficient, and more secure. 

Here's how each product can streamline administrative processes to improve the student and faculty experience in response to institutional transitions to distance education. 

Docusign Agreement Cloud for Education: The Docusign Agreement Cloud for Education makes it easy for institutions to digitally transform agreement processes, including admissions, financial aid, staff hiring, and class registration. The Docusign Agreement Cloud includes a dozen-plus applications, including Docusign eSignature and Docusign CLM, for preparing, signing, acting on, and managing agreements. Here are some ways institutions can accelerate important processes for students, faculty, and staff with Docusign’s Agreement Cloud as a result of a transition to distance education: 

  • Process enrollment forms and financial aid documents that cannot be collected at the Registrar’s office when students are remote. 
  • Manage new hire paperwork, on- and off-boarding agreements, and work-study authorizations for students that cannot be collected on campus, as usual, when students are remote. 
  • Process event planning forms and student organization applications that cannot be collected by student life offices when students are remote. 

Docusign eSignature: Docusign eSignature accelerates agreements, eliminates manual tasks, and reduces hassle for students, faculty, and administrators. Here are some ways Docusign eSignature can help institutions transition to distance learning:

  • Approve students’ internship proposal agreements, independent study proposals, and requests to graduate that cannot be collected on campus when students are remote. 
  • Facilitate paperless consents and other agreements for vaccinations that may be necessary for a return to on-campus instruction. 

Docusign CLM: Docusign CLM automates manual tasks, aligns complex workflows, and eliminates bottlenecks to get work done faster and more accurately. Here’s one way in which colleges and universities can use Docusign CLM in response to a transition to distance education: 

  • Manage vendor contracts for products, such as videoconference, cybersecurity, and laptop equipment, procured to facilitate the transition to distance learning.   

Institutions of higher education should consider if they may be able to use their stimulus funds for technology costs associated with the transition to distance education caused by COVID-19. Docusign can help institutions streamline their administrative processes in many ways that relate to institutional shifts to distance education due to the COVID-19 and enhance the overall student and faculty experience. 

Learn more about the Docusign Agreement Cloud for Education