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Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund

Recently, the U.S. Congress allocated funding to colleges and universities to assist students affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) was created to enable colleges and universities to provide cash grants to current students for expenses related to disruptions to their education due to COVID-19.

To access the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF), AU signed and submitted to the Department of Education a certification affirming the university will distribute no less than 50 percent of the funds received under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act to provide Emergency Financial Aid Grants to students. The Secretary of Education advises colleges and universities to prioritize students with the greatest need, but also establish a maximum funding threshold for each student to ensure the widest possible distribution of funds.

At AU, 3.16 million dollars has been allocated to assist students through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund. Applications are considered and approved based on financial need. The American University HEERF maximum award is $1,500 per student.

As of May 26, 2020, approximately, 6,300 AU students meet the minimum federally established eligibility criteria. To date, 1,791 students have applied for HEERF consideration. 1.3 million dollars have been awarded to 1,423 students.

Students seeking consideration for assistance from the HEERF are advised to complete the AU HEERF application. Students who apply must attest, under penalty of the law, that the expenses detailed in the application are true and accurate and be able to produce documentation of expenses incurred, if requested.

Eligibility Criteria

For consideration, students must meet the following federally established eligibility criteria:

  1. Must be enrolled in the semester for which the student is requesting aid
  2. Must be a degree-seeking student
  3. Must not be enrolled in a fully online program
  4. Must be an aid applicant that is eligible for Title IV aid
  5. Must have submitted 2019-2020 FAFSA
  6. Enrollment was impacted by COVID-19

Eligibility Expenses

Funding may be awarded to cover expenses related to:

  • Course materials
  • Technology
  • Food
  • Housing
  • Health care
  • Childcare

Students may not receive funding for costs already reimbursed/funded by AU.


To apply, students must complete the AU HEERF Application. The HEERF Application will reopen on June 1, 2020. New applications will be reviewed weekly and notifications sent within 7-10 business days of review. The application will remain open until all Higher Education Emergency Relief funds are expended.

For comprehensive information regarding American University's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit AU's COVID-19 Resources page