Colleges spent $1B on distance-learning tech at COVID-19 peak

Colleges received $76 billion in emergency funds during the COVID-19 pandemic and spent more than $1 billion on software and tech to support distance ed.
DSLR camera on tripod, recording a video of teacher during e-learning class during covid-19 pandemic
(miodrag ignjatovic / Getty Images)

An analysis of college relief spending published last week by The Chronicle of Higher Education found that just over 3,000 colleges received funding from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund between 2020 and 2022.

Of the $76 billion in funding, $58.4 billion was distributed to public colleges and universities, which spent more than $1 billion on distance learning technology — including cameras, computers and software.

In addition to distributing money directly to students, public and private institutions used their emergency funding to replace lost revenue, distribute emergency grants and tuition reimbursements and purchase new technology and safety equipment. 

Of more than $26 billion spent by colleges in 2020 and 2021, they spent $1.5 billion on campus safety and operations, $1.2 billion on additional equipment for distance learning and $521 million on additional technology for students, according to the report.


Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana made the biggest investment in equipment and software to support distance learning, spending just shy of $21 million. Norfolk State University spent the most on tablets and laptops for students, in the “additional technology for students” category, at $12 million.

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