How CARES Act funds can pay for your new software

Customer has an idea

The CARES Act can pay for your school's new software if:

  • there has been a significant change in the delivery of instruction due to Covid-19 (such as a move to virtual classes) AND
  • the new software is associated with that change.

For example, the move to virtual or hybrid instruction has significantly impacted course scheduling. If you need better course scheduling software (ahem...) to help you manage this change, it is likely an eligible use of CARES Act funds.

Let's dig into this a little more.


The CARES Act provided fast economic aid in response to Covid-19. Of the allotted $2.2 trillion, $14 billion was given to the Office of Postsecondary Education as the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, or HEERF.


All Title IV participating schools were allotted funds as shown in this table. Up to 50% of the funds can be used for institutional costs. As examples, the institutional allotment for UC Davis is $16,900,000; for Missouri Valley College, it’s $660,000.


All institutions have 365 days from the date of award to complete the performance of their HEERF grant. For example, if a grantee received a Grant Award Notification on April 7, 2020, the period of performance for their HEERF grant would be through April 6, 2021. (See the HEERF FAQ Rollup, Question 6.)

Software Eligibility

The Secretary of Education wrote in her introductory letter about the funding:

I encourage you to use the portion of your award for Recipient’s Institutional Costs to expand your remote learning programs, build your IT capacity to support such programs, and train faculty and staff to operate effectively in a remote learning environment.

From the HEERF FAQ Rollup, Question 47:

An institution may use funds from the Institutional Portion of its section 18004(a)(1) allocation to purchase equipment or software, pay for online licensing fees, or pay for internet service to enable students to transition to distance learning as such costs are associated with a significant change in the delivery of instruction due to the coronavirus. An institution may also use Institutional Portion funds for any other costs for computer system upgrades that are reasonably related to “significant changes to the delivery of instruction due to the coronavirus.”

ofCourse Eligibility

For most schools, course scheduling has been made considerably more difficult due to significant changes in the delivery of instruction. ofCourse saves institutions hundreds of hours and generates schedules that are far more effective, making full use of school resources and enabling distance learning students to take the courses they need. It is therefore a “cost… associated with a significant change in the delivery of instruction due to the coronavirus” and an eligible use of HEERF funds.

Next Steps

Your school likely has a team or committee tasked with allocating the institutional portion of your CARES Act allotment. Contact them. Let them know, for example, that the move to online learning has disrupted course scheduling, and that course scheduling software would be extremely helpful. Let them know how much money you're asking for (see our pricing). It could be that they are looking for a few more effective ways to allocate your school's CARES Act funds — because if the funds aren't used, they're gone for good.

Chris McGrath

Chris is the Creative Director at ofCourse.

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