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Colleges and universities are starting to prepare beyond the end of March as the novel coronavirus continues to spread.

The coronavirus may not reach its peak for eight weeks. It may return in August or September. In response, many institutions are moving classes online, and some are sending students home and shutting down campuses altogether.

To help keep you informed as this situation unfolds, here's a roundup of the latest news developments on how the coronavirus is impacting higher education.

Guidelines and Policy Changes

The Department of Veterans Affairs could get discretion to not reduce GI Bill benefits for student veterans who attend colleges that shut down or are going online due to the coronavirus, thanks to a bill passed in the Senate Monday. Its fate in the House is unclear.

The U.S. Department of Education issued guidelines to ensure internet accessibility for students with disabilities. The department's Office for Civil Rights issued a factsheet and held a webinar to remind leaders about their responsibilities to prevent discrimination.

The executive committee of the University of Missouri Board of Curators voted Monday to give Mun Choi, the system's president, temporary authority to take any appropriate measures to address the public health emergency caused by the coronavirus. The California Community Colleges Board of Governors voted Monday to do the same for Eloy Ortiz Oakley, chancellor of the system.

So far, Choi has used his authority to approve a policy to allow eligible employees who cannot telework to use up to 30 days of accrued sick or vacation leave to care for immediate family members due to school and daycare closures.

Finances and Free Offers

S&P Global declared that the global economy is now in a recession as a result of economic pressures from the coronavirus and the measures taken to stifle its spread.

Senate Democrats are again proposing deferment of student loan payments for six months. The Senate's coronavirus stimulus package would cost at least $750 billion and also allow people to defer mortgage loan payments.

New York's attorney general is freezing state debt collection for those with medical and student loans for the next 30 days. About 41,000 cases involving student debt would qualify for this relief, according to the attorney general's office. The total amount of debt that freezes was not readily available on Tuesday.

Publishers and ed-tech companies continue to offer free services for students and institutions affected by the coronavirus. Cambridge University Press announced it would provide 700 textbooks free to all through May. Cambridge Core customers can request free access to a reference works collection, as well.

RedShelf is providing free access to ebooks for students for the rest of the academic term. University of the People is also making its accredited courses available to all students to take for credit at their institutions. The Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition is calling on the Federal Communications Commission to also take steps to make broadband internet more affordable and accessible for students during this time.

Cancellations and Changes

Several colleges have already announced they are canceling commencement ceremonies, including Virginia's entire system of community colleges, the University of Michigan, Howard University, Kansas State University, Wentworth Institute of Technology and Kellogg Community College. Oakley has also directed community colleges in California to cancel or move online their commencements.

The College Board and ACT are canceling and rescheduling upcoming tests. Those slated for June are still on.

A few colleges have backtracked earlier decisions on how to handle the coronavirus. Liberty University is moving most classes online after Virginia's governor banned gatherings of 100 people or more. The Los Angeles Community College District is suspending classes until March 29 to give people more time to prepare for a pivot to online.

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