ACE, 83 Other Higher Education Associations Request Additional Student and Institutional Aid in the Wake of COVID-19
June 01, 2020

In other developments, groups call on additional support for research, ACE and AAU release antitrust issue brief

With both the House and Senate back at work this week, attention has turned to a potential fifth coronavirus stimulus bill. The House passed its measure—the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act—on May 15, a bill Senate GOP leaders called “dead on arrival.” However, a compromise is likely to be hammered out in late June or July

In a letter to the Senate last week, ACE and 83 other higher education associations requested an additional $46.6 billion to support students and colleges and universities struggling to deal with staggering losses that far outstrip the $14 billion appropriated for higher education in the fourth emergency spending bill, the CARES Act.

The HEROES Act includes $90 billion for a State Fiscal Stabilization Fund that governors can apply for and distribute, with the largest share—65 percent—going to K-12 schools. Public colleges and universities would receive 30 percent, or approximately $27 billion, of this pot, while 5 percent could be distributed at the state’s discretion. The bill also includes an additional $7 billion for private nonprofit colleges and universities, $1.7 billion for minority serving institutions and $1.4 billion for institutions with “unmet needs,” for a total of about $37 billion for higher education.

The letter to the Senate details why $46.6 billion is required to help campuses address their near-term financial needs, including increased student aid due to declining family incomes, and revenue losses stemming from enrollment declines and closures of campus facilities that provide auxiliary services. As summer and the 2020-21 academic year approach, even greater losses are expected—recent surveys indicate that the $46.6 billion estimate is far too low.

The groups are asking for the funds to be distributed differently than in both the HEROES Act and the last stimulus bill, the CARES Act. Given the unreliability of states distributing aid as Congress intends, they would like to maintain the CARES Act distribution system of sending money directly to the institutions—with the Department of Education overseeing the process—but with greater institutional flexibility in how it’s used to avoid some of the confusion and calamity of the CARES Act implementation.

Other COVID-19 Developments

Congress must prioritize research funding in the next COVID-19 bill: The presidents of ACE, the Association of American Universities, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, and the Association of American Medical Colleges wrote to Senate leaders last week urging them to provide at least $26 billion for research in the next COVID-19 relief measure. This funding would help mitigate the harmful impacts to the nation’s research enterprise, including disruptions, delays, and indefinite shutdowns of some federally funded research; and extraordinary strains on the research workforce that potentially put the nation at risk. This letter renews an earlier request the associations made last month.

ACE, AAU release antitrust issue brief: As higher education leaders continue to talk with colleagues and professional associations about urgent matters arising from COVID-19, ACE and the Association of American Universities have prepared an issue brief to help in the navigation of antitrust laws. The pandemic has raised questions and concerns about topics such as tuition refunds and competition for students in the context of possible fall enrollment/tuition shortfalls that may prompt discussions that have potential antitrust implications. This issue brief offers a primer about whether, when, and how antitrust considerations should factor into information-sharing and other collaborative activities during the coming months.

COVID-19 Policy Developments

Learn more about the higher education association effort to urge Congress and the administration to craft a comprehensive response that addresses the challenges students and campuses are facing.