Funding College Career Readiness

Use ESSER to Support College and Career Readiness

School Districts Utilize the ESSER Funds to Help Prepare for Students’ Future

The Elementary and Secondary School Education Relief (ESSER) Fund is an excellent way to support college and career readiness among students. The fund was created as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act in 2020 to the tune of $13.5B. College and career readiness falls under the umbrella of the many allowable uses for ESSER funds which is great news!

What is ESSER?

The ESSER fund was created in response to the outbreak of Coronavirus in March 2020 with an initial $13.5B budget.  Additional funding in response to the pandemic was provided in December 2020 with the Coronoavirus Response & Relief Appropriation Act (CRRSA) and again in March 2021 with the American Rescue Plan (ARP), totalling an additional $177.3B. The money local education agencies (LEAs) receive will come through their respective state education agencies (SEAs) using the same formula for disbursing Title I-A funds. A wide variety of school district agenda items fall into the 15 eligible usage categories specified by the federal government. This includes college and career readiness, which is great news given the statistical evidence demonstrating the pandemic’s negative ramifications on enrollment in two- and four-year institutions, as well as career and technical education (CTE).  

How to Use ESSER to Support College and Career Readiness?

The ESSER funds can be utilized to support students to help them attain their goals of graduating from high school and continuing on to college or successful career and technical education (CTE). 

One focus area for ESSER is equity in college and career readiness programs, particularly among low-income students, students of color, and special student populations. Data demonstrates the virus had a tremendous impact on these demographics.  This includes an intent to create significantly more access to financial aid and literacy resources and information about how to use those resources.

This funding allows for the development and improvement of CTE programs, including introducing new students to higher paying fields.

ESSER funding also provides invaluable funding for additional technology, which became so vital to student success during the pandemic. Such technology provides inclusivity and incredible opportunities to students in terms of college and career readiness. 

Another key area of focus for the funding is expanding valuable college and career readiness curriculum that aligns with student interests and goals. This includes utilizing tools such as career interest assessments for students (the very type of assessment provided by Shamrck).

Why Care About College and Career Readiness?

College and Career Readiness is important because it will help to ensure that a child’s interests, skillset, and experience are being used. There are many jobs out there, but knowing the specific qualifications for those jobs can make a world of difference when students are deciding what steps to take after high school, whether that is enrollment, training, or employment. The more qualified students are, the better chance the students have of getting what they want.

Who Benefits From ESSER?

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Congress has directed funds be divided using the system used for other funds “under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Title-IA.” It has been designated that “states must distribute at least 90% of funds to local education agencies (LEAs) based on their proportional share of ESEA Title I-A funds.” 

Elementary, secondary, and charter schools are all eligible for emergency relief funds. However, for-profit private schools are ineligible from receiving funds, per the CARES Act. Furthermore, ESSER III funds attempt to truly reach all students by stipulating that the U.S. Department of Education set aside $800 million to identify and support homeless children and youth, meeting the needs of these students arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

What’s the Timeline for ESSER Spending?

The money allocated through ESSER may be pre-awarded and can be used for expenses going as far back as March 13, 2020. Each round (ESSER, ESSER II, and ESSER III) has their own deadline for awarding and obligating the funds. 

  • Awarded – This refers to the step in the process where ESSER fund money is transferred from the SEA to the LEAs and subgrantees it oversees.
  • Obligated – To meet the deadline for obligation, LEAs and subgrantees must commit to spending the money they’re awarded for the purpose it was awarded for. In other words, the money received must be budgeted to an outlined purpose. It is not the date by which all of the money must be spent. It is a legally binding agreement.

For each round, the funds must be awarded within one year of their receipt. Then it’s up to SEAs and LEAs to obligate the funds by September 30 of 2022, 2023, and 2024. ESSER III came with a few additional deadlines to keep in mind. 

These emergency relief funds are to be tracked and LEAs are required to do this by submitting CARES Act Performance Reports.


The ESSER is a great opportunity for school districts to prepare their students for the future. The COVID pandemic had a tremendous impact on college and career preparedness.  This was demonstrated by events such as a decline in completed FAFSA applications, community college enrollment numbers dropping, and CTE programs that struggled to remain connected with students. Young adults have been thrust into a struggling economy and are likewise struggling with how to proceed with their future. School districts can benefit from these ESSER funds in a number of ways that will help their students gain support for postsecondary and career preparedness.

If your students are uncertain about what their next steps should be after high school, there’s no better time than now to plan and make decisions that will give them more options as an adult. We know this can seem daunting, but we work with students who need help to successfully plan their college and career preparation and create wonderful goals beyond graduation to achieve. Visit the Shamrck Dashboard today.

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