Higher education groups aren’t happy with the $14 billion earmarked for colleges and universities in the $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package passed by the Senate late on Wednesday, saying institutions are facing severe cash flow problems and have been hit hard financially due to closures necessitated by the pandemic.
One group also said the absence of any measures to reduce student debt will not help borrowers’ mental and financial security.
The American Council on Education (ACE) and 10 other higher education groups had called for $50 billion in emergency aid for colleges and universities.
“While this legislation is an improvement from where the Senate started, the amount of money it provides to students and higher education institutions remains woefully inadequate,” said Ted Mitchell, ACE president, in a statement.
The Association of Public & Land Grant Universities (APLU) echoed Mitchell’s sentiments.
“We appreciate that the agreed upon bill evolved from its initial form, which included no direct funding to students and universities, to then $6 billion, and now a minimum of $14 billion for all of higher education with the possibility for some additional funds at the discretion of states. … However, the $14 billion provided for higher education falls far short of what is needed,” said the association in a statement.
Higher education groups have said that moving classes online – to eliminate in-person interactions – has and will continue to eat into institutions’ finances. Meanwhile, universities’ bottom lines are stressed as many are offering room and board refunds for students who have been asked to evacuate dormitories. College athletics have been canceled, which has meant another dependable revenue source is stymied. And many colleges, especially minority serving institutions (MSIs) like HBCUs, are taking on the responsibility of covering expenses for students from low-income backgrounds.
“It is critical that students receive support for needs such as finding housing, technology assistance for online learning, or to travel home,” said Mitchell. “Campuses are losing staggering sums after closing for safety reasons and refunding tuition, room and board, and other auxiliary revenues. If these needs are not met, students are going to suffer financially and may drop out.”