American Rescue Plan Act: Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF III)

NIU has received $21 million in additional federal relief funding to help our students, including those who are enrolled only in distance education programs.

In addition, the U.S. Department of Education has expanded its eligibility criteria to include our undocumented and international students.

This funding is part of the American Rescue Plan Act: Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF III) and is focused on helping students cover the cost of attending NIU and emergency costs due to the coronavirus. Examples of such costs are tuition, food, housing, health care, mental health care and child care.

ARPA grants of varying amounts are being issued to students. The award amount is based on the student’s qualifying circumstance.

  • Students eligible for the automatic grant were notified on December 16 via their NIU email.
  • Disbursement of the grants begins on December 14.
  • Students who did not receive emails or have grants posted to their accounts were not eligible to receive the grants.
  • Receiving ARPA: HEERF III funds will not affect other financial aid. However, those funds might be considered taxable income: Students should consult tax preparers for guidance.

NIU also is adding money to the Student Emergency Fund (SEF) in spring 2022.

All students, regardless of ARPA: HEERF III grant eligibility, can apply for emergency assistance through SEF beginning February 7. Funding is limited.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who qualifies for HEERF III automatic grants?

This round of funding was specifically reserved for students impacted by the ongoing pandemic and will incur additional academic and program expenses as a result of the following:

  • Had one or more non-passing grade(s) in spring 2021 at NIU, are enrolled sall 2021 at NIU. The funding is intended to help defray the costs associated with repeating the course(s) that were not passed; and/or
  • Students who were not enrolled full-time in fall 2021 and lost the fall 2021 portion of an NIU Merit Scholarship due to not being enrolled full-time.
Are undocumented or international students eligible?

Citizenship and residency were not used as a criteria for determining eligibility, so if an international or undocumented student met the criteria outlined above then they would receive funds. However, the U.S. Department of Education encourages institutions to prioritize domestic students, especially undergraduates.

Am I restricted in how I use my grant?

Yes. The money is yours to use for any cost of attending NIU or emergency costs caused by COVID-19, such as tuition, food, housing, health care, mental health care or child care.

Can I apply my money to my NIU account balance?

Because of timing limitations, grants were sent out to students as a credit balance refund. If you owe NIU money, you always can make payments toward your NIU account balance with your ARPA:HEERF III dollars.

What criteria did NIU use to determine HEERF III automatic grant eligibility?

Our criteria included:

  • Undergraduate, graduate and aw students enrolled Fall 2021 semester.
  • Students who are not full-time NIU employees.
  • Includes students exclusively enrolled in distance education, citizens, permanent residents, refugees, asylum seekers, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) recipients, other DREAMers and similar undocumented students.
  • International students are also eligible after domestic students have been prioritized.
  • Students who demonstrate exceptional financial need, based on loss of financial resources as a result of the ongoing pandemic such as a loss of an NIU merit scholarship because of enrollment status as well as students who demonstrate need because they must repeat a course from Spring 2021.


For general concerns or questions, contact the Center for Student Assistance at or 815-753-8300.

For technological concerns contact the Service Desk at or or 815-753-8100.

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