The new funding follows Abbott's July 8 announcement of a $57 million investment in the state's need-based financial aid programs for colleges and universities. Both rounds of higher education funding this month, totaling $175 million, come from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund established through the coronavirus recovery bill.
"One of the best ways to accelerate our economic recovery is to make strategic investments in our future workforce," Abbott said in a statement. "These federal funds will provide targeted assistance to keep students enrolled or help them re-enroll in higher education so they can pursue new professional and economic opportunities for themselves and their families. By investing in our students and institutions, we will make our workforce and our economy even stronger."
According to the governor's office, the $118 million investment announced July 22 will be distributed across four categories with the majority of funding—$93 million—going toward the continued education of displaced workers and students whose families experienced a negative financial effect due to COVID-19.
"In today’s economy, we know jobs increasingly follow skills," Harrison Keller, the state's higher education commissioner, said in the statement. "These strategic investments in our students and institutions will keep more students on track to enter the workforce with the credentials and education that tomorrow’s economy will demand."
A total of $46.5 million will be used for financial aid aimed at training displaced workers in high-demand fields who have earned college credit, without being credentialed, with new or higher-level skills. Another $46.5 million portion will be used to maintain college or university enrollment for those students whose families have been financially affected by the pandemic.
Another $15 million was announced for "strategic education and workforce data infrastructure," according to the governor's statement. Those funds will be used in support of student academic and career advising and to share more information with higher education stakeholders including students, businesses, lawmakers and colleges and universities. An additional $10 million will be provided to support new distance learning initiatives, including the development of free, open educational resource materials, according to Abbott's statement.