Time to Modernize Your Institution’s IT Infrastructure

In Brief:

  • The Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund III (HEERF III) was signed into law in March 2021

  • Billions of dollars in emergency aid was sent to public and private non-profit higher education institutions to use for student financial aid and upgrades across campus

  • Now is the time to use these funds to update your institution’s IT infrastructure solutions

Blog Post

When the pandemic hit the United States in March 2020, not even higher education institutions were spared. Many campuses were thrown into a panic about how to keep their institutions running while at the same time keep their students and staff safe. Being prepared for such a catastrophic event was nearly impossible, but having the proper technology management upgrades in place could have saved many institutions time and money.

Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund III (HEERF III)

As the financial and technological struggles within higher education began to mount, U.S. Congress created the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund in March 2020, which has morphed into the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund III (HEERF III). The HEERF III, which was signed into law on March 11, 2021, amounts to $39.6 billion in support to institutions of higher education. In general, these funds are to be used in schools’ general efforts to help them prevent, prepare for, and respond to the effects of COVID-19 pandemic; including making vital IT infrastructure management upgrades across campuses.

The Department of Education released an allocation table and additional regulatory guidance in an FAQ document about the largest infusion of Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) aid to date. The table makes clear which portion of the allocation must be spent on additional emergency grants to students and which portion is available for institutional uses.

According to NACUBO HEERF Resource Center, all students who are or were enrolled in an institution on or after March 13, 2020, are eligible to receive funding, regardless of whether they completed a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or are eligible for Title IV aid, including international or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) students.

Also, the NACUBO HEERF Resource Center shared, institutions may use their portion of funds to discharge student debt or unpaid balances by discharging the complete balance of the debt as lost revenue and reimbursing themselves through their HEERF institutional grants. This applies specifically to the debts of students who may be experiencing enrollment holds, transcript withholding, or other particular hardships related to unpaid balances.

The Department of Education made clear restrictions regarding how the HEERF III grant funds cannot be used for construction or purchase of real property. Minor remodeling expenses related to COVID-19, like upgrades to HVAC systems and the purchase of “room dividers” to increase social distancing are acceptable. However, the institutional portion of the funds can be used to purchase equipment or software and for computer system upgrades that are reasonably related to the delivery of instruction due to the coronavirus; not including already planned upgrades to computer systems.

Time to Upgrade Your Institutions IT Infrastructure

With billions in federal funding coming the way of higher education institutions, it’s time for your campus to tackle your IT infrastructure monitoring modernization projects. eCampus News explained the best IT management modernization projects are those that assist in running the core business with lower cost, higher efficacy, and better value. One way to do this is by moving core applications and infrastructure services from on-premises environments to a cloud based solution, like those offered by Amazon Web Services Higher Education (AWS). Cloud based solutions provide tighter security and data recovery while freeing up IT staff to devote less time to maintaining legacy systems and more time to areas aligned with the institution’s core business.

Government Technology, along with AWS, explained how cloud technologies can help colleges and universities modernize their infrastructure solutions and make data-driven decisions while staying secure. Higher education institutions are finding that their infrastructure systems are susceptible to all kinds of disruptions, including a pandemic or cyber threats. Making the move to cloud helps institutions strike a balance of increased security, agility, and resiliency.

In our blog, The Benefits of Using Cloud Computing Solutions, we explored how the use of cloud computing solutions, such as our Nelnet Cloud Connector, is growing in popularity and the many advantages, including security, cost savings, and strategic value, that comes along with this solution. Our cloud computing solution manages data between our technology and your institution’s ERP and currently supports Workday and Ethos integrations. The Nelnet Cloud Connector not only runs on AWS and Kubernetes, it lives on the Nelnet side and is updated frequently. So, not only is there no need for you to have to install software on your system, you automatically receive updates, too. By using your funds to make IT infrastructure management upgrades, you can gain conveniences likes these and prepare your institution for any future surprises.

Brian Anderson
Author: Brian Anderson

Brian Anderson is the IT Manager for the Integration Team at Nelnet Campus Commerce. Brian's team is responsible for building, maintaining, and supporting the integration connectors used to keep data in sync between customer ERP systems and Nelnet applications. He has been with Nelnet for 10 years. In his free time Brian enjoys spending time with his family, watching sports, and tinkering with new technology.

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