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Overwhelmed Colleges Worry About Title IX Rule's Release

March 20, 5:45 p.m. Colleges and universities have their hands full dealing with the coronavirus outbreak, as they transition to online classes, close campuses and worrying about the health and housing of their students. But many are worried they may soon have to implement a controversial rule by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos that will change how institutions handle allegations of sexual assault and harassment, including a requirement the accused be able to cross-examine their accusers in a live hearing.

DeVos has been rumored to be issuing the rule soon. Though the Office of Management and Budget, which reviews proposed new rules, has meetings with stakeholders scheduled through April 6, the office could cancel them and green-light a rule at any time.

The rule would involve changing policies, including faculty agreements, said Brett A. Sokolow,  president of the Association of Title IX Administrators.

"Issuing Title IX regulations in the midst of coronavirus response would be a huge distraction for schools and colleges, which need to be focused right now on transitioning essential services to online delivery," he said. While institutions are usually given 30 to 90 days to comply with a new rule, he said they should be given at least a year.

More than 10 higher educations asked this week in a memo for federal lawmakers to give DeVos “the authority to waive compliance with significant and/or costly new regulatory requirements that may be introduced in this period, as institutions’ ability to come into compliance will necessitate a substantial outlay of resources that are better allocated to other purposes at this time.”

Craig Lindwarm, vice president for government affairs at the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, said his group is worried about having to comply with a pending rule expanding the reporting requirements for institutions for foreign gifts and contracts.

“Now is not the time to impose substantial new regulatory burdens on institutions, and significant challenges in implementation, when campuses are closing and responding to the emergency conditions they’re facing,” he said.

“We have significant concerns that institutions won’t have the bandwidth or the resources to implement these regulations,” said Matt Owens, the Association of American Universities’ executive vice president and vice president for federal relations.

“This is not the time,” said Elizabeth Tang, education and workplace justice counsel at the National Women’s Law Center. “Students and families are struggling to provide for their basic needs, and schools scrambling to provide online resources. It would be absolutely inappropriate to issue a new rule in the midst of all this.”

The law center has said it would file a suit to block the rule if the final version is similar to the initial version DeVos proposed. Many of the Trump administration's rules have been blocked in court, she said. But Sokolow, writing in Inside Higher Ed, warned institutions will have to respond to a new rule even if it is being challenged in court.

“It’s unlikely that a federal judge will enjoin the regulations fully, and if there is a partial injunction, colleges and universities will still need to comply with those elements of the regulations that are not enjoined,” he wrote in a Jan. 15 opinion piece on the potential impact of the new rule on institutions.

-- Kery Murakami

Private Colleges 'Essential' During Shelter in Place?

March 20, 5 p.m. California's private college association said its interpretation of a state executive order for people to shelter in place, issued yesterday by Governor Gavin Newsom, defines certain functions of all colleges in the state, both public and private, as essential.

A spokeswoman for the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities, which represents 85 private, nonprofit institutions in California, cited the reference in Newsom's order to a U.S. Homeland Security site that describes "16 federally-identified, critical infrastructure sectors." The government facilities sector in that list includes colleges.

"The education facilities subsector covers pre-kindergarten through 12th grade schools, institutions of higher education, and business and trade schools," the Department of Homeland Security said. "The subsector includes facilities that are owned by both government and private sector entities."

It's unclear if this guidance will apply to shelter-in-place orders other states and municipalities may issue.

-- Paul Fain

Groups Call for More Student Loan Relief

March 20, 4:45 p.m. Advocates who’ve been calling for student loan relief from the U.S. Congress and President Trump said the announcement today by U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos -- that borrowers will be able to suspend repayments for at least 60 days -- doesn't go far enough.

“It’s a good start, but more is needed,” Justin Draeger, president and CEO of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators.

As senators negotiated a bipartisan agreement on what could be a $1 trillion stimulus package, the financial aid administrators' group, along with the American Council on Education and the Institute for College Access and Success, in a letter Friday to congressional leaders called on Congress to go further than the newly announced measures.

They want Congress to include in any stimulus package provisions keeping borrowers from being placed into default, a ban on involuntary collections like garnishments, requirements to automatically place borrowers into forbearance, assurance of no forgiveness penalties and to ensure a smooth transition back to requiring borrowers to make payments again.

Meanwhile, Alexis Goldstein, senior policy analyst for the progressive Americans for Financial Reform, questioned DeVos’s requirement that borrowers who are seeking a break from making payments contact their loan servicer. "This comes at a time when many student loan servicers are closing call centers or reducing hours, and will in fact be a serious barrier to borrowers under pressure getting the relief they desperately need," she said. "In addition, it leaves out some federal student loan borrowers whose loans are not federally held."

-- Kery Murakami

Colleges Offer Space for Emergency Response

March 20, 4 p.m. Colleges are prepping their facilities to help respond to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The University of Maine system is working with state and local emergency response teams to determine how its facilities and personnel could be deployed to help, according to a news release.

The system is creating an inventory of available resources, including facilities that could be turned into alternative health-care delivery spaces, existing supplies and the system's logistical capacity.

UMaine's Cooperative Extension already has provided eight full-gown protective equipment suits and face masks to the Penobscot Nation Police Department, which was unable to source the suits through suppliers.

While the system is doing its part to reduce the spread of coronavirus, Dannel P. Malloy, the system's chancellor, said that's not enough.

"With lives hanging in the balance, Maine’s universities must do even more," Malloy said in the release. "We are considering all appropriate steps to deploy our resources to assist Maine’s public health and emergency management leaders."

Colleges around the nation are taking the same approach. Tufts University in Massachusetts and Middlebury College in Vermont have both announced that they are offering up use of their facilities during this time, according to the Associated Press.

Earlier this week, New York University also asked its students to vacate dorms so they could be prepped to house patients infected with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

-- Madeline St. Amour

Leaders at Cal State Postpone Retirements

March 20, 2:10 p.m. Several leaders in the California State University system, including the chancellor, are postponing their retirements through the fall as higher education grapples with disruption from the novel coronavirus.

“As the world faces an unprecedented crisis, now more than ever, it is crucially important for stable and experienced hands to provide thoughtful guidance on all areas affecting the operations of the university,” Adam Day, chairman of the system's Board of Trustees, said in a news release. “I am pleased and relieved that Chancellor White and Presidents Morishita and Harrison will continue to provide their leadership for the immediate future.”

Planned searches for the new chancellor and presidents will recommence later this year, Day said.

Timothy P. White, CSU's chancellor, was planning to retire in July. He has served as chancellor since 2012.

Leroy M. Morishita, president of CSU East Bay, intended to retire at the end of the academic year. He has led the college since July 2011.

Dianne F. Harrison, president of CSU Northridge, planned to retire at the end of June. She has served as president of a CSU campus since 2006, first starting at CSU Monterey Bay before moving to Northridge.

-- Madeline St. Amour

Duke to Pay Contract Workers Through Semester

March 20, 1:15 p.m. Duke University announced that "all Duke faculty and staff will continue to stay in a paid work status regardless of their work location or work schedule."

Duke University food service and hotel operations are often staffed by contract workers, meaning they are directly employed by outside companies.

"We are making a commitment to provide financial assistance to ensure that all food service workers who are currently assigned to work full-time in Duke University facilities as well as employees of the Washington Duke Inn and J. B. Duke Hotel will maintain their current pay through May 31, 2020, to the extent that their employers are unable to do so, and they are not covered by pending state and federal government programs," the university said in an announcement.

The university did not provide information on what share of contract employees are full-time. Employees and contract workers may have their job assignments changed in order to meet the college's need.

-- Lilah Burke

DeVos Suspends Student Loan Payments for 60 Days

March 20, 12:35 p.m. All  borrowers with federally-held student loans will have the option to suspend their payments for at least 60 days, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced Friday. The department directed all federal student loan servicers to grant an administrative forbearance to any borrower with a federally held loan who requests one.

DeVos, in a news release issued moments after President Trump announced the suspension during a White House briefing on the coronavirus outbreak, also said she is authorizing an automatic suspension of payments for any borrower who is more than 31 days delinquent on student loans, as of March 13, or for those who become more than 31 days delinquent, essentially giving borrowers a safety net during the national emergency. The forbearance will be in effect for a period of at least 60 days, retroactive to March 13. Borrowers should contact their loan servicer online or by phone, the department said.

In addition, DeVos said interest on federally-held student loans will be set to 0 percent. Trump had announced last Friday that he would waive interest on the loans.

"These are anxious times, particularly for students and families whose educations, careers and lives have been disrupted,” said DeVos. “Right now, everyone should be focused on staying safe and healthy, not worrying about their student loan balance growing. I commend President Trump for his quick action on this issue, and I hope it provides meaningful help and peace of mind to those in need.”

-- Kery Murakami

Harvard Plans to Pay Graduate Workers

March 20, 11:30 a.m. Harvard University will be paying graduate student workers through the spring 2020 semester, the university has released. 

"Where possible, the University expectation is that the work that graduate students are compensated for should continue," Harvard announced on its coronavirus webpage. "If work assignments are not possible to complete using online or distance learning technologies, supervisors are encouraged to find other opportunities for graduate student workers to complete their work commitments, including shifting jobs and job descriptions to alternate assignments in order to fulfill their employment obligations."

Graduate student workers who are unable to work because of the pandemic will still be compensated through the semester. Graduate students, regardless of work status, will still receive their stipends.

Harvard's graduate student union, affiliated with the United Auto Workers, applauded the announcement on Twitter. "Our union has been pushing for these protections, and we are relieved they are finally being implemented," the union posted. "We look forward to a forthcoming announcement for undergraduate student workers as well!"

-- Lilah Burke

College Facilities Considered 'Essential' During Shelter-in-Place Order

March 20, 10:40 a.m. Gavin Newsom, California's Democratic governor, on Thursday evening announced a shelter-in-place order for the entire state, which will be in effect until at least April 19. Similar orders by counties and other localities previously had applied to 21 million of the state's 40 million residents.

Colleges and universities, however, are considered part of 16 of the nation's critical infrastructure services, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. These sectors are "considered so vital to the United States that their incapacitation or destruction would have a debilitating effect on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination thereof," the Homeland Security Department said.

Specifically, higher education institutions are considered to be part of the government facilities subsector. These facilities include many owned by federal and state governments, as well as "individuals who perform essential functions or possess tactical, operational or strategic knowledge."

It remains unclear which functions on college campuses are deemed essential during a shelter-in-place order like California's. But guidance from universities in the state include some details.

For example, the University of California, Los Angeles, said in a statement that its campus would be operating similar to its winter closure, meaning that only a few core services will continue during the shelter in place.

"Educational institutions, like UCLA, are subject to these orders but are considered essential businesses," the university said. "This means we will suspend all on-campus operations with the exception of those that are essential and cannot be conducted remotely." Those services include:

  • Health-care services and corresponding support. UCLA hospitals and clinics will remain open and fully operational; more information is available on UCLA Health’s website.
  • Classroom and laboratory instruction for remote learning will continue through the end of spring quarter. Deans and chairs will determine what on-campus essential support may be needed.
  • Student housing and dining services
  • Building systems and custodial services, although at reduced levels
  • Animal care or animal research
  • Research laboratory safety
  • Research approved by the vice chancellor for research
  • Emergency response, such as police, fire, emergency medical services and environmental health and safety
  • Emergency management
  • Custodial services will continue to operate at reduced levels, but surfaces in common areas continue to be sanitized regularly.
  • Building systems
  • IT services associated with on-site support of campus IT infrastructure and remote learning
  • Human resources, finance and counseling services will continue, but primarily remotely.
  • The Ashe Student Health and Wellness Center will remain open for in-person services.
  • Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), although all services will be offered via telehealth. No on-site services will be available at this time.

-- Paul Fain

Senate Dems Call on DeVos to Provide Immediate Relief to Borrowers

March 20, 10:15 a.m. Top Senate Democrats Friday morning urged U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to use her existing authority to provide relief to federal student loan borrowers, while Congress considers providing help in a new stimulus package during the coronavirus crisis.

In a letter, the Democrats urged DeVos to: not involuntarily collect loan payments through the garnishment of paychecks, tax refunds and Social Security benefits; ensure student loan servicers' call centers remain open, so borrowers can access the help they need; direct all student loan servicers to notify borrowers of their options for repaying their loans, including income-driven repayment; and ensure that students taking leaves of absence due to the coronavirus do not trigger loan repayment.

President Trump’s announcement last week that the federal government will waive charging interest on loan balances will not necessarily lower monthly payments, said the letter signed by Senator Patty Murray of Washington, the top Democrat on the Senate education committee; Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York; and Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts; Ron Wyden of Oregon; Dick Durbin of Illinois and Sherrod Brown of Ohio.

So the senators also called for halting all interest capitalization, in addition to waiving interest, that will “unnecessarily penalize borrowers and put them further in debt,” the letter said. The senators also said DeVos should make it easier for borrowers to enroll in income-driven repayment plans, and implement a bill approved last year that automatically uses tax data to automatically recertify the income of borrowers in income-driven plans.

“The Department has numerous tools at its disposal to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 and the resulting damage to our economy. The President’s announcement that student loan interest will be waived is simply not enough,” wrote the senators.

Angela Morabito, a spokeswoman for the Education Department, responded, “We appreciate their suggestions, and we are already working on many policies to aid student loan borrowers. We will have several announcements in the coming days.”

-- Kery Murakami

Maryland System Goes Online, Cancels Commencements

March 19, 7:45 p.m. Institutions in the University System of Maryland will conduct undergraduate instruction online for the remainder of the spring semester, Chancellor Jay Perman said in a statement Thursday. The system’s 12 universities also will not hold in-person commencement ceremonies.

The announcement comes after Maryland governor Larry Hogan asked the system to finish out the semester with remote learning, The Baltimore Sun reported. Maryland's universities had originally planned to conduct online instruction for two weeks following their spring break.

Graduate and professional students will have “a different set of considerations” that the system is working on with guidance from accreditors and certification boards, Perman said.

-- Greta Anderson

Senate Republicans Propose Deferment of Student Loan Payments

March 19, 6:33 p.m. Senate Republicans and Democrats on Thursday unveiled plans to help students saddled by debt during the economic fallout of the coronavirus crisis, but a rift quickly developed over how.

Terry Hartle, senior vice president for government and public affairs at the American Council on Education, cited "deep disappointment" after his first read of the Republican proposal. The plan does not include grants or loans to help colleges that are ​struggling with the economic effects of the crisis. Some college presidents are worried their institutions might close, he said.

The Republican proposal would allow borrowers to defer payments for up to three months, without interest growing. It also would allow U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to grant another three months of deferment if necessary, depending on whether a declaration of emergency remains in effect.

Some advocates for providing student loan debt relief to many people who are losing jobs or seeing their incomes shrink were heartened that senators from both parties were interested in providing some relief.

However, the Republican approach differed fundamentally from Senate Democratic leaders, who, as reported Wednesday by Inside Higher Ed, proposed the federal government pay down borrowers’ loans.

Under that proposal, the Department of Education would make monthly loan repayments for borrowers for the remainder of the national emergency declaration. At a minimum, borrowers would have at least $10,000 of their loans paid off by the federal government, under the plan from Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer; Senator Patty Murray, the senior Democrat on the Senate education committee; and Senators Sherrod Brown and Elizabeth Warren.

The Republican plan would also protect Pell Grant recipients from having to return grant funding to the federal government if their institutions close midterm. It also includes a provision allowing institutions to issue work-study payments to students who are unable to work due to closures. The money could be paid as a lump sum or in payments similar to paychecks.

-- Kery Murakami

Higher Ed Lobby Calls for Federal Support for Students, Institutions

March 19, 3:00 p.m. Citing the pandemic's profound impact, more than 10 associations that represent a wide swath of U.S. higher education released a list of actions by the federal government they said were necessary to help students and colleges.

"While closing campuses or moving entirely to remote instruction have been necessary steps in slowing the spread of the virus among students and staff, these shifts have caused massive disruption to students, institutional operations and institutional finances," said the document, which was prepared by the American Council on Education with backing from associations for private colleges, public and land-grant institutions, research universities, Christian and Catholic colleges, and state higher education executive officers, among others.

The "substantial" financial impacts on colleges and universities will ripple through local communities, the group said, given the wide economic role higher education plays in much of the country.

The ACE document specifically called on the federal government to take action in four key areas to help students and institutions.

  • Emergency aid targeted to students and colleges. The groups said aid should be disbursed through the Pell Grant system directly to colleges and students, particularly those who are lower income and struggle with basic needs. Grants to institutions should be based partially on enrollment, with at least 25 percent going toward emergency aid for students. Those grants should be capped at $1,500 per student. For-profit colleges and those with "substantial" portions of their enrollments in online programs should only receive the student aid, the groups said, not the institutional grants.
  • Access to low-cost capital. To help colleges weather the storm and return to normal operations, the feds should encourage access for colleges to new zero-interest loans. One way would be to provide a refinancing option for current college and university debt.
  • Technology implementation fund. The groups called on the federal government to create a $7.8 billion funding stream to "ensure that institutions are supported in the transition to distance learning, while also ensuring that students do not lose access to their educations as a result of the shift."
  • More regulatory flexibility. Congress should temporarily suspend rules relating to the eligibility, determination and disbursement of federal financial aid, the groups said, to assist colleges in getting aid to students rapidly. One example would be to help students not see their eligibility for Pell Grants reduced for a term in which their institution has closed due to COVID-19. Another would be to lift restrictions on the transfer of funds between campus aid programs like Federal Work-Study and the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant. The groups also called on Congress to give the education secretary authority to waive or suspend existing statutory and regulatory deadlines.

-- Paul Fain

Congress Passes Measure to Protect GI Bill Benefits

March 19, 2:23 p.m. The House unanimously approved a measure giving the Department of Veterans Affairs flexibility to not have to cut the housing allowance under the GI Bill.

The Senate had passed the measure on Monday, so the bill will now head to President Trump.

Veterans' groups had been worried that VA regulations would require the agency to cut housing benefits to half of the Defense Department's basic housing allowance for students enrolled in academic programs that switch midterm from in-person to online.

They also worried that in-person programs approved for GI Bill benefits would no longer be eligible if they become online only. That could mean benefits like tuition and housing allowances would stop for students in those programs, because they would no longer be VA approved.

“We are relieved military-connected students are now free from the burden of worry with their housing allowance and can concentrate on protecting their families and community, while they attempt to finish their studies from a distance,” said Tanya Ang, vice president of Veterans Education Success, one of the groups that had been pushing for the measure.

-- Kery Murakami

Catholic University President Tests Positive for COVID-19

March 19, 12:10 p.m. John Garvey, president of Catholic University, released a statement Thursday saying he has tested positive for COVID-19. Garvey, who has been quarantined since March 13, said he no longer has symptoms. He will continue his self-isolation, per CDC guidelines.

"This news may be concerning to many on campus," Garvey said of Catholic, which is located in Washington, D.C. "We have been taking every precaution to stop the spread of COVID-19 in its tracks, including moving all classes online, shutting down our residence halls for the semester, cancelling all athletics games and practices, and giving broad permissions for employees to work from home."

-- Paul Fain

Senate Dems: $10,000 in Student Loan Relief for All Borrowers

March 19, 11:30 a.m. Senate Democrats released their plan to offer student loan relief to borrowers amid disruptions caused by the pandemic. The proposal would authorize the U.S. Department of Education to make payments equivalent to the amount due for all federal student loan borrowers throughout the duration of the national emergency and public health emergency periods. Garnishment of wages, tax refunds and Social Security benefits also would halt under the plan, which would codify President Trump's plan to waive interest on all federal student loans.

"This suspension of payments will be a new policy distinct from 'deferment' and 'forbearance,' which are opt-in procedures that do not count toward student loan forgiveness under income-driven repayment (IDR) or Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)," the proposal said. "During the period of suspending payments, borrowers will receive credit toward forgiveness and loan rehabilitation for payments made by the department on their behalf. All payments made by the department will be tax-free for borrowers."

The department also would be required to ensure that each federal student loan borrower receive a minimum of $10,000 in student loan relief no later than 90 days after the conclusion of the national emergency.

Under the plan, the Education Secretary would send monthly notices to all borrowers to allow them to opt out of the suspension and payment contribution and to notify them that the program is temporary and will end at some point when the national emergency has ceased.

-- Paul Fain

Senator Alexander: Allow Students to Defer Loan Payments

March 19, 10:35 a.m. Senator Lamar Alexander on Wednesday called for the U.S. Congress to pass additional measures to help college students and borrowers with student loan debt, including a call to allow borrowers to defer loan payments. “We are going to have to pay what it costs to contain this disease,” Alexander said in the statement, which referred to a third COVID-19 relief bill Congress is considering.

"That legislation will need to fix problems to make the paid leave mandate work, improve and further expand COVID-19 testing, increase the availability of medical masks and other protective equipment, and increase the number of health care workers," said Alexander, a Tennessee Republican who chairs the Senate's health and education committee. "We also need to allow students to defer payment on their student loans and to keep their Pell Grants and give the Education secretary flexibility to waive federal academic testing and accountability rules. Congress should pass this legislation immediately."

-- Paul Fain

Case Western, Mansfield Drop SAT

March 18, 5:08 p.m. Case Western Reserve University and Mansfield University of Pennsylvania both dropped requirements for applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores, citing the COVID-19 pandemic.

Case Western announced that its policy would affect those seeking to apply in the fall of 2021 or after. The university said that the cancellation of SAT and ACT dates sped up the change.

Richard Bischoff, the university’s vice president for enrollment management, said, "We would rather students focus as best they can on their academic subjects rather than worrying about the SAT or ACT. Testing has always been just one factor in our evaluation of applications, and we are confident that we will continue to make quality admission decisions for those students who are either unable to test or who choose not to submit test scores.”

Mansfield said that its policy would be effective immediately, for fall 2020 applicants.

-- Scott Jaschik

U of Washington Professor Dies From COVID-19

March 18, 4:30 p.m. A University of Washington professor has died due to an infection of COVID-19, which is caused by the novel coronavirus.

Stephen Schwartz was a professor of pathology. The university confirmed the news in a tweet(Note: This item has been updated to correct the identity of Dr. Schwartz.)

"He has left a lasting imprint on our department, our university and the broader scientific community and will be greatly missed," the tweet said.

Schwartz did his residency in the university's Department of Pathology from 1967 to 1972, according to a report from the Seattle Times. He started as an assistant professor in 1973.

He was also an adjunct professor in the bioengineering and medicine departments. 

The interim chair of the department, Charles Alpers, said in an email obtained by the Times that Schwartz is "rightfully considered a giant amongst investigators of the biology of smooth muscle cells and the structure of blood vessels,”

Schwartz was also an investigator of the American Heart Association, a founding chair of the Gordon Research Conference and co-founder of the North American Vascular Biology Organization.

-- Madeline St. Amour

Higher Ed Outlook Now Negative

March 18, 2 p.m. The financial outlook for higher education is now negative, according to Moody's Investors Service.

The industry was previously seen as stable.

"For fiscal 2021, universities face unprecedented enrollment uncertainty, risks to multiple revenue streams and potential material erosion in their balance sheets," the report from Moody's said.

About 30 percent of colleges already have weak operating performances, so they'll have an even harder time adapting to the disruption caused by the coronavirus and the new recession.

Many colleges have responded to the coronavirus by moving online and sending students home, which will immediately impact revenue streams, according to Moody's.

There's great variety among institutions in how they'll be able to weather this storm. However, more than 30 percent of public universities are running with operating deficits, and more than 15 percent have less than 90 days of cash on hand, which puts them in particular risk.

It's quite possible higher education could face disruption in enrollment, state funding, endowment income and research grants. However, if the economy returns to normal after the outbreak is contained and enrollment stays steady in the fall, these predictions could be reversed.

If disruption from the coronavirus continues into the fall, it's possible some colleges would declare fiscal exigency, according to Moody's. This rarely used mechanism lets colleges facing severe financial difficulties quickly address fixed costs, like tenure.

-- Madeline St. Amour

Senate Dems Would Buy Down Student Loan Balances

March 18, 1:40 p.m. Senate Democrats are proposing that the next coronavirus stimulus plan not only defer repayments of federal student loans but pay down the amounts owed, officials confirmed today.

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor Monday, “Our proposal will let you defer your mortgage loans for six months. No penalty, fees or impact on your credit. We'll do the same for student loans.”

But according to a PowerPoint presentation about the proposal given to Democratic senators, the plan would “Cancel Monthly Student Payments and Have Federal Government Pay.”

Schumer’s office on Tuesday said, “Our proposal would work in concert with the president’s directive to waive student loan interest. So our payments would in effect be directly toward the principal balance.”

Whether it will be included as part of a final passage is unknown. Senate Republicans are working with President Trump on a proposal Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell described Monday as one Republicans would be able to agree on. He’d then engage with Democrats to get a deal that can pass the Senate.

The proposal comes as lawmakers are working on an even bigger coronavirus package than the $100 billion one passed by the House and expected to be approved by the Senate. Republicans thus far haven’t talked about doing more for borrowers than Trump’s announcement Friday that he will temporarily waive the interest on federal student loans.

Politico’s Michael Stratford tweeted Tuesday morning that Trump is proposing the next round of aid include $40 million to pay for waiving the interest. Trump is also calling for $100 million in grants to schools and colleges for coronavirus response, including disinfecting buildings and providing counseling and distance education.

-- Kery Murakami

New Guidance for Accreditors

March 18, 11:30 a.m. Accrediting agencies can now perform virtual site visits and extend the term of accreditation in light of the novel coronavirus, according to new guidance from the U.S. Department of Education.

Agencies are not required to implement virtual visits, but they have the temporary authority to do so. They should follow up with in-person site visits, which do not have to be full peer-review site visits, within a reasonable amount of time to meet statutory and regulatory requirements.

Virtual site visits should use interactive formats like telephone and videoconference meetings, rather than emails, the guidance says.

Accrediting agencies can adopt or modify virtual site visit policies without a public comment period if they wish to go this route.

For institutions that were in the process of renewing their accreditation and had a scheduled site visit during this time, agencies can extend the term of accreditation for a reasonable period of time. Accreditors can also provide a good-cause extension to institutions that are on probation but are unable to hold a site visit due to interruptions caused by the coronavirus.

The department's guidance also reminds agencies that they can retroactively accredit institutions in the event of a canceled site for final approval, so that students can graduate from an accredited institution.

Agencies should record and publish their decisions to use these temporary flexibilities, as well as keep records of what colleges used these extensions and waivers.

-- Madeline St. Amour

Training for Virtual Accreditation Site Visits

March 18, 10 a.m. Western Governors University is providing training webinars on how to host and manage virtual accreditation evaluation site visits in light of guidance for the novel coronavirus.

The nonprofit, online college is hosting the webinars with the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, a regional accrediting organization, starting this week, according to a news release.

The commission plans to do virtual site visits to follow social distancing recommendations from local, state and federal governments.

Evaluation site visits are used to assess whether accredited institutions continue to meet the required standards for accreditation. Virtual evaluation site visits are uncommon.

The training webinars will focus on the basics of internet meetings, considerations of internet meetings, considerations for site visits and troubleshooting internet meetings.

-- Madeline St. Amour

Universities Ramp Up COVID-19 Testing Capacity

March 18, 9:37 a.m. The University of Washington Virology Lab and Stanford University are among the nation's leading organizations in COVID-19 testing capacity, according to a tracker created by the American Enterprise Institute. The UW lab is able to test 2,000 patients a day, AEI said, while Stanford can process 1,000. Also among U.S. leaders in developing and processing tests are Yale University, the University of California's medical centers, Washington University in St. Louis, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and the NorthShore University HealthSystem in Illinois, which has a teaching affiliation with the University of Chicago.

Scientists at UW, for example, began developing their test shortly after reading in December about the spread of the coronavirus in China, the Seattle Times reported.

After a COVID-19 test from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention failed in the nation's initial response to outbreak, the Association of American Medical Colleges reported that academic medical centers quickly sought to fill the void. The association said university labs in the first couple weeks were frustrated by a federal approval process that stalled deployment of tests. But the development and use of tests now appears to be scaling up.

The Stanford Clinical Virology Laboratory said earlier this week that it was using in-house diagnostic tests on hundreds of patient samples each day from around the Bay Area and beyond, with plans to process more than 1,000 tests per day. The university is able to return test results within 24 hours. And it has created a drive-through testing facility in Palo Alto.

Stanford labs have donated equipment and reassigned staff to help conduct the testing. And the university is producing some test components that are in short supply, including primers and probes used to amplify viral genetic material in patient samples. The virology lab also will provide support for a new clinical trial to test the efficacy of the antiviral drug remdesivir in treating people with the virus.

“Very few other places in the country are capable of providing this scale of COVID-19 testing at this point,” Dr. Benjamin Pinsky, the lab's medical director and associate professor of pathology and of infectious diseases at Stanford's School of Medicine, said in a statement. “Fortunately, we had the foresight in January to imagine that the ability to provide testing for COVID-19 would be important, and we worked hard to make that happen.”

-- Paul Fain

ALA Board Backs Closing for Libraries

March 17, 4:23 p.m. The American Library Association’s Executive Board is recommending academic, public and school libraries consider closing to the public in light of the new coronavirus outbreak.

“To protect library workers and their communities from exposure to COVID-19 in these unprecedented times, we strongly recommend that academic, public, and school library leaders and their trustees and governing bodies evaluate closing libraries to the public and only reopening when guidance from public health officials indicates the risk from COVID-19 has significantly subsided,” it said in a statement.

Closing libraries is typically a local decision. But the board urged administrators, local boards and governments to close libraries. It also threw its support behind paid leave and health-care coverage for staff while libraries are closed.

The question of whether to close libraries is difficult for many, because librarians “pride themselves on being there during critical times for our communities,” the statement said. But it also noted that libraries “are by design unable to practice social distancing to the degree recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health authorities.”

Keeping libraries open could do more harm than good, according to the ALA Executive Board. But the board also noted ways different libraries are providing services even after closing, such as by providing online classes to students, offering online access to resources and working with various officials to determine what services are needed.

-- Rick Seltzer

Coalition Calls on FCC to Act

March 17, 4:15 p.m. The Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition is calling on the Federal Communications Commission to expedite affordable broadband services for unconnected Americans in light of the novel coronavirus.

In response to the public health crisis, colleges and schools are closing and moving coursework online, which can pose a problem for the about seven million students who don't have access to broadband internet at home, according to the letter from the coalition.

The coalition recommends that the FCC take several steps, including:

  • authorize emergency funding from the Universal Service Fund for hot-spot lending programs
  • encourage internet service providers to expand low-cost broadband service offers
  • provide a subsidy to providers to offer free or low-cost broadband to students who have to stay home
  • allow schools and libraries to extend their networks to homes
  • allow rural schools and educational nonprofits to claim Educational Broadband Service licenses
  • authorize funding for wireless internet service providers to deploy broadband in unserved areas where schools are closed

​​“The FCC can take several steps now to promote hotspot lending programs and allow schools, libraries and telehealth providers to increase their broadband capacity and share that capacity with the surrounding community,” said John Windhausen Jr., executive director of the coalition, in a statement. “We cannot leave people on the wrong side of an education gap and a healthcare gap, especially with the Centers for Disease Control recommending school closures for at least 8 weeks. The SHLB Coalition urges the FCC to harness the power of community anchor institutions to protect our nation’s access to healthcare and education during this difficult time.”

-- Madeline St. Amour

New York Freezes Student Debt Collection

March 17, 2:10 p.m. New York is suspending student loan debt payments due to the coronavirus.

The state's Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo, and attorney general, Letitia James, announced in a news release that state-referred debt payments for New Yorkers will be frozen for the next 30 days.

The state won't be collecting medical or student loan debt, as well as other forms of debt, during that time. About 165,000 cases fit the criteria for the freeze, including patients who owe medical debt to state hospitals, those who owe student debt to State University of New York campuses and individuals or business owners who owe debt related to things like property damage.

The policy also suspends the accrual of interest and fee collection on outstanding state medical and student debt.

After the 30-day period ends, the attorney general's office will reassess the situation, according to the release.

“As the financial impact of this emerging crisis grows, we are doing everything we can to support the thousands of New Yorkers who are suffering as a result of the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Cuomo said a statement. “This new action to temporarily suspend the collection of debt owed to the state will help mitigate the financial impact of the outbreak on individuals, families, communities and businesses in New York as we continue to do everything we can to slow the spread of the virus.”

-- Madeline St. Amour

Virginia Cancels Commencement for Two-Year Colleges

March 17, 2 p.m. Commencement ceremonies for Virginia's community colleges are canceled.

Glenn DuBois, chancellor of the system of 23 community college, which enrolls nearly 230,000 students, announced the decision on Tuesday, citing recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that asks people to avoid public gatherings of 50 people or more for the next eight weeks.

The colleges will honor students' achievements at a later time in a safe manner, DuBois said in a letter to the system's community.

-- Madeline St. Amour

University of the People Courses Open to All

March 17, 2 p.m. University of the People, an online nonprofit, is offering its accredited courses to any university to use as students move to online-only education as the novel coronavirus spreads.

All 115 of the university's courses will be open to all colleges, according to a news release. University of the People's faculty members will teach the courses, which students can take for credit at their own universities. The courses will cover topics in general education, business administration, computer science, health science and education.

“Universities are facing an enormous challenge in having to shut down campuses and start up online, all without sacrificing educational quality. However, online education is not simply improvising with the internet; it is an actual practice that requires technology and expertise,” Shai Reshef, president of the university, said in the release. “Because we have been online for more than 10 years, we are in a unique position to offer our courses to all interested institutions."

-- Madeline St. Amour

Senate Democrats to Again Propose Six-Month Deferment on Student Loan Payments

March 17, 12:33 p.m. As the Senate considers the $104 billion coronavirus stimulus package approved by the House, lawmakers are working on another stimulus package. And Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Senate Democrats will propose letting student loan borrowers defer payments for six months.

Speaking on the Senate floor Tuesday morning, Schumer said the overall proposal will be for at least $750 billion.

"Our proposal will let you defer your mortgage loans for six months," he said. "No penalty, fees or impact on your credit. We'll do the same for student loans."

Kyle Southern, director of higher education policy and advocacy for the millennial-focused advocacy group Young Invincibles, also called for a six-month deferment. In a statement he said, "Today’s young people are the most indebted in history, are more likely to be living paycheck to paycheck, and are more likely to be working in hourly or low-wage jobs that are being impacted by widespread closures. Every dollar counts for young people struggling to keep themselves healthy, safe and financially secure … By suspending required payments, the President can put hundreds of dollars per month in the pockets of young people, helping relieve an immense financial burden as they navigate this crisis."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also said in a floor speech that Republicans will be working with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on additional aid. “We need to provide more direct assistance for American workers and families,” McConnell said.

CNN reported Mnuchin​ will present Republican senators during a lunch Tuesday​ with more details of an $850 billion package President Trump is proposing.

Schumer on March 11 had already called for six months of payment forbearance on federally insured or guaranteed mortgages and federal student loans.​

-- Kery Murakami

Falwell, Liberty Bow to State Emergency Ban

March 17, 11:10 a.m. Liberty University is moving most residential classes to a digital format, just days after Jerry Falwell Jr., the university's president, tweeted that classes would continue on campus.

The reversal comes after officials in Virginia, where Liberty is located, implemented an emergency ban on public gatherings of 100 people or more, according to a news release.

"We originally believed it was safest to return our students following their spring break instead of having them return following greater exposure opportunities from leaving them in different parts of the country for longer periods," Falwell said in the statement. "But, the Governor’s recent decision to limit certain gatherings has left us no practical choice because we have so many classes of more than 100 students."

The change will take effect when spring break ends on March 23.

Students can still return to campus after spring break and take classes online in their residence halls. Some classes, like aviation and nursing, will remain in-person.

-- Madeline St. Amour

Senate Passes Bill to Protect GI Bill Benefits

March 17, 9:40 a.m. On Monday the U.S. Senate passed a bill that would give the Department of Veterans Affairs discretion to not reduce GI Bill benefits for student veterans who attend colleges or universities that shut down or go online only during the coronavirus pandemic. The Senate rushed through the emergency legislation late last night, Military Times reported. But its fate in the House remains unclear.

The measure is aimed at maintaining housing benefits payments under the GI Bill in cases where college programs switch midterm from in-person to online. It also would seek to prevent the disruption of tuition and housing benefits when an academic program has been preapproved as eligible for GI Bill benefits as an in-person program, but not an online one.

-- Paul Fain

Guidelines From Feds on Students With Disabilities, Web Access and Preventing Discrimination

March 17, 9:15 a.m. The U.S. Department of Education issued guidelines for ensuring internet accessibility for students with disabilities and in preventing discrimination as colleges and K-12 school cope with the coronavirus pandemic.

webinar from the department's Office for Civil Rights is aimed at reminding decision makers of their responsibilities on web accessibility for distance learning.

"Online learning tools must be accessible to students with disabilities, and they must be compatible with the various forms of assistive technology that students might use to help them learn," the department said in a news release. "The webinar advises school leaders to routinely test their online activities to ensure accessibility."

In a fact sheet, OCR describes the rights of students with disabilities during school and college shutdowns and includes tips for preventing incidents of discrimination.

-- Paul Fain

National Federation of the Blind: Don’t Make Online Accessibility an Afterthought

March 16, 6:15 p.m. The National Federation of the Blind is urging schools and colleges not to forget their legal obligation to make learning content accessible to all students as they rush to move courses online in response to the spread of COVID-19.

In a blog post today, Stephanie Flynt, government affairs specialist at the National Federation of the Blind​, wrote that blind students “risk having their ongoing educational needs swept under the rug” as many institutions prepare to cease in-person instruction.

“Over the past two decades, we know the 21st century interactive classroom has dramatically evolved, but we also know the accessibility of instructional materials has continued to be viewed as an afterthought,” Flynt wrote. “The solutions exist, but must be prioritized.”

The National Federation of the Blind has compiled a series of accessibility resources for educators and is monitoring accessibility barriers through an education technology survey. Readers are invited to participate in an #AccessibleNOW Twitter chat on Friday, March 20, at 12 p.m. EST.

-- Lindsay McKenzie

Leader of Calif.'s Two-Year Colleges: Response to Virus to Last Through June

March 16, 5:00 p.m. Eloy Oakley, chancellor of California's community college system, said Monday that the system's response to the coronavirus outbreak likely will last through June, reported Mikhail Zinshteyn, a California-based education reporter.

Oakley was speaking at a hearing. He said the state's two-year colleges should "plan for a second peak of the virus sometime around August or September."

The governing board for the system gave Oakley emergency powers for 180 days. He now has the ability to override existing local and state rules governing community colleges.

The system, which enrolls roughly 2.1 million students at 115 colleges, last week announced a move to online instruction. Oakley also said the colleges should cancel, postpone or move online all commencement ceremonies that are scheduled for May and June.

-- Paul Fain

Northwestern to Reschedule Gathering of College Presidents From Around the World

March 16, 4:44 p.m. A summit of university presidents from around the globe that had been scheduled for early June has been postponed as COVID-19 spreads.

Dozens of presidents were expected to attend the U7+ Summit at Northwestern University. The gathering was intended to help university leaders “play a leading role in addressing critical global challenges” like climate, inequity, polarization, technological transformation and community engagement.

Postponing the gathering will allow leaders to focus on issues at home, according to a Northwestern news release. The event will be rescheduled, it said.

“We are deeply committed to working across institutional and geographic boundaries to address our greatest global challenges,” Northwestern’s president, Morton Schapiro, said in a statement. “However, the health and safety of our academic and global communities is of paramount importance at this time, necessitating a postponement of the U7+ Summit.”

In addition to Northwestern hosting the event, Columbia University, Georgetown University and the University of California, Berkeley, are listed as co-sponsors. Representatives from more than 50 universities were invited.

-- Rick Seltzer

Colleges Begin Canceling Commencement Ceremonies

March 16, 4:18 p.m. The University of Michigan on Friday became one of the first U.S. institutions to cancel spring commencement ceremonies.

Many other colleges and universities have said they will decide on commencement later. But that may be changing Wednesday, as several colleges have made the call to cancel the events.

Howard UniversityKansas State UniversityWentworth Institute of Technology and Kellogg Community College were among institutions to announce that commencement was canceled or postponed.

Kellogg, located in Michigan, cited federal guidelines recommending against larger gathering of people.

“We are in unprecedented times and we are taking unprecedented measures as an institution to prevent exposure to the coronavirus that is rapidly spreading in Michigan and around the world,” Adrien Bennings, president of KCC, said in a statement. “We are disappointed that we won’t have the opportunity to celebrate our Bruins’ success by handing them a diploma as they walk across the stage to the applause of their family and friends, but we will find some other way to recognize their accomplishments.”

-- Paul Fain

In Reversal, LA Community College District Suspends All Classes

March 16, 2:15 p.m. The Los Angeles Community College District announced the suspension of all classes, both online and in-person, beginning today and going through March 29.

The governing board for the district, which enrolls roughly 230,000 students, made the decision after initially planning to move to online class delivery after canceling classes for the first two days of this week. The district had said the two-day pause would be used to train faculty members to access and teach in the online platform.

But after an emergency meeting over the weekend, the board instead opted to suspend all classes and in-person services at the colleges until the end of the month.

“There is nothing more important to me and to my board colleagues than the safety of our students, staff and faculty. This was a difficult decision to make, but it was the right one that provides protection and stability during these challenging times,” Andra Hoffman, the board's president, said in statement.

-- Paul Fain

Some International Applications Soaring to University of the People

March 16, 2:04 p.m. The online nonprofit University of the People reports a huge spike in global applications in response to the coronavirus.

“We are seeing an enormous jump in numbers of applications and interest from areas highly affected by the coronavirus, from students whose schools may have shut down or who may be in quarantine themselves,” Shai Reshef, president of the University of the People, said in an emailed statement.

“We are happy to accommodate these students affected by mounting health concerns,” he said.

The university, which is a tuition-free, accredited American university, received 300 applications from students in China during the winter term from October to December 2019. So far this term, which started Jan. 1, the number of applications from China has tripled.

Web traffic from Italy, Japan and South Korea -- all countries badly impacted by the pandemic -- has also doubled in recent months.

-- Lindsay McKenzie

College Board, ACT Reschedule Exams

March 16, 12:19 p.m. The College Board and ACT have rescheduled upcoming exams.

The SAT of May 2 has been canceled. Makeup exams for the March 14 SAT, scheduled for March 28, have also been canceled "in response to the rapidly evolving situation around the coronavirus (COVID-19)."

Students who had been registered to take the SAT on one of those days will receive refunds.

At this point, the next SAT that has not been called off is June 6.

ACT has rescheduled the April 4 exam, moving it to June 13 "in response to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19)." In the next few days, everyone who registered for the exam will receive information about the new date.

The College Board gave the SAT on Saturday, although many test sites were closed.

-- Scott Jaschik​

Census Bureau Shares Information on Counting On-Campus Students Who've Been Sent Home

March 16, 12:12 p.m. The U.S. Census Bureau is addressing some operations that count college students.

College students who live on campus are counted through their colleges or universities as part of a census operation that counts students in university-owned housing and other group quarters like nursing homes, halfway houses and prisons. That could get a little more complicated with so many campuses sending students home.

A little more than half of student housing administrators had been planning to respond to the census in a method that provides the Census Bureau with directory information about students. Another 35 percent had been planning to allow students to self-respond with individual questionnaires.

The Census Bureau is contacting those institutions allowing self-responses to ask if they’d like to change those plans.

Generally, students in colleges that are temporarily closed because of the outbreak will still be counted under the same processes as before.

“Per the Census Bureau’s residence criteria, in most cases students living away from home at school should be counted at school, even if they are temporarily elsewhere due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said a Sunday afternoon news release from the Census Bureau.

In other words, even if students are home on the official census day, which is April 1, they should be counted based on where they live and sleep most of the time. The Census Bureau says it is asking institutions to contact students with reminders about responding.

-- Rick Seltzer

Guidance on International Students and Online Courses

March 15, 10:21 a.m. The Department of Homeland Security’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has published more detailed guidance on how it will offer flexibility in relation to rules that typically restrict international students from counting more than one online course toward the requirement that they maintain a full-time course of study.

The guidance, published Friday, addresses three scenarios: one in which a school closes temporarily without offering online learning instruction, one in which a college temporarily switches to online instruction and the international student remains in the U.S., and one in which a college temporarily switches to online instruction and the international student leaves the country.

In the first case -- in which a college closes -- the Homeland Security Department said institutions should keep international student records active in the federal Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) so long as students intend to resume their course of studies when classes start up again, just as they would for regularly scheduled academic breaks.

For the other two cases, in which institutions switch to online instruction, SEVP said it will temporarily waive restrictions on international students engaging in online coursework. Students’ SEVIS records should stay in active status if they continue courses online whether they are inside or outside the U.S.

SEVP stressed that the measures are temporary and that guidance is subject to change. Colleges must notify SEVP of procedural changes they make to respond to the coronavirus within 10 days of making those changes.

-- Elizabeth Redden

Grinnell Expands Pass/Fail Option

March 15, 9:45 a.m. Grinnell College, a liberal arts college in Iowa, is allowing students to take all their spring courses under a pass/fail grading system in light of the college’s temporary shift from in-person to distance education. Students have until April 10 to switch some or all of their spring courses to a pass/fail grading system. Students can still opt to complete their courses under a traditional A-F grading system, but Grinnell said expanded use of pass/fail grading "aims to reduce student stress during this already-stressful time, while still providing a pathway to fulfill program and degree requirements."

-- Elizabeth Redden

Academic Libraries Share Response to COVID-19

March 15, 9:10 a.m. Many institutions are busy preparing to take their in-person courses online, but few academic libraries have significantly altered how they operate in response to the coronavirus, early survey data reveal.

The Academic Library Response to COVID-19 survey was launched on March 11 by Christine Wolff-Eisenberg, manager of surveys and research at Ithaka S+R, and Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe, professor and coordinator for information literacy services and instruction at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Over 200 libraries responded to the survey in the first 24 hours, reporting “relatively little change” in how they serve users. Libraries reported prevention and mitigation measures such as increased cleaning and public event cancellations, but only 64 percent of libraries said they engaged in regular communication with staff to provide updates and guidelines on safety measures.

The survey is still open and seeking responses. Regularly updated results can be accessed here.

-- Lindsay McKenzie

SNHU Shares Resources About Online Learning

March 14, 12:40 p.m. Southern New Hampshire University, which is one of the nation's largest universities, enrolling more than 96,000 students in online programs, released tips for other colleges as they move instruction online. The resources include guides on how to build a teacher persona, support student success, handle feedback and forums, and accommodate diversity, equity and inclusion in the online classroom.

"In times like these, the importance of working together becomes more apparent than ever. Uniting as one community to share critical resources and information is both a sign of solidarity, and a sign of our collective commitment to the good and wellbeing of all people -- not just the ones in our own campus classrooms," Paul LeBlanc, SHNU's president, said in a statement. "So as many colleges and universities move instruction online, SNHU would like to support their efforts in any way we can. We’ve compiled a list of resources and instructional tips that may be helpful, and invite our fellow schools to reach out to us if they feel the need as they navigate the process in the coming weeks."

-- Paul Fain

NCAA May Adjust Eligibility Rules for Athletes

March 13, 5:50 p.m. The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s three divisions will discuss adjusting eligibility rules for spring athletes, which would potentially allow seniors to compete for another season.

The Division I Council Coordination Committee agreed eligibility relief would be appropriate for all Division I athletes who participated in spring sports and said the details of any rules adjustments will come later. The Division III Administrative Committee officially granted spring sports athletes an additional season or semester of eligibility, according to statements released by the NCAA.

The Division II Administrative Committee will also allow spring athletes to be eligible for an additional season.

-- Greta Anderson

Consumer Groups: Trump's Student Interest Waivers Not Enough

March 13, 5:35 p.m. Consumer groups applauded President Trump’s announcement that he will indefinitely waive the interest on federal loans during the coronavirus crisis.

But having asked Trump and Congress to put in place a moratorium to give borrowers a break from making any loan payments during the economic fallout from the pandemic, the groups also said the president’s move didn’t go far enough.

“Freezing interest will keep balances from growing during this time and that's important,” Persis Yu, National Consumer Law Center staff attorney, said in a statement.

"However, many borrowers are going to experience income shocks and urgent expenses that will impede their ability to make their regularly scheduled payments," said Yu. "Moreover, people need the confidence to know that, if they are sick or medically vulnerable or need to care for children, that they can stay home and not face the draconian consequences of defaulting on their student loans."

Yu also called for the Education Department to stop garnishing wages or taking payments from Social Security benefits and tax refunds during the crisis.

"No one should fall behind on their student debts because of this national crisis," said James Kvaal, president of the Institute for College Access and Success. "Waiving interest is welcome, but the key question is whether student loan borrowers can reduce or halt their monthly payments during the crisis​. Fully pausing student loan payments in addition to halting interest accumulation, and stopping punitive student loan collections, would provide much-needed, immediate relief to those individuals who may be unable to work and are facing economic hardship during this time of uncertainty."

Mike Saunders, director of military and consumer policy at Veterans Education Success, said waiving interest rates will only marginally help student borrowers.

"We call on President Trump to ensure borrowers, as well as all Americans, have extra cash in their pockets until this global pandemic is over," he said. "The federal government should not require Americans to prioritize payments to the government over ensuring the health and safety of their own families."

A spokeswoman for the department said more details are coming on Trump's order.

And earlier, a Democratic House aide said a moratorium on student loan payments is not expected to be included in the coronavirus package Congress is negotiating with the White House.

-- Kery Murakami

Trump to Waive Interest on Student Loans

March 13, 4:10 p.m. At a news conference to declare a national emergency over the coronavirus pandemic, President Trump said he is issuing an emergency order to help student loan borrowers. "To help students and families, I have waived interest of student loans until further notice," Trump said.

-- Kery Murakami

Wife of UT Austin President Tests Positive 

March 13, 2:30 p.m. Greg Fenves, president of the University of Texas at Austin, is being tested for COVID-19 after his wife, Carmel, tested positive for the virus.

A second member of Fenves's family, who also works at the university, is presumed to have COVID-19 as well, according to a letter from Fenves to the university community.

Fenves, his wife and the other family member are in self-isolation. They are compiling a list of people they have recently had contact with. UT Health Austin nurses will reach out to those on the list who are affiliated with the university for screening.

Last week, Fenves and his wife traveled to New York City for alumni and student events. His wife began experiencing mild flu-like symptoms upon their return.

Classes at UT Austin were canceled and the campus was closed today, March 13, because of the positive test.

-- Madeline St. Amour

Change of Plans for Monmouth

March 13, 2 p.m. At least one college already has changed its initial response to the novel coronavirus.

Monmouth College in Illinois initially planned to resume classes on March 18, extending its spring break by a few days.

In a letter sent Friday, the college said it reassessed and will instead allow flexibility for students and faculty members to make their own decisions.

The college will stay closed for an extra week after spring break ends and reopen on March 23 under what it’s calling a “flexible plan” for the rest of the semester.

Under this plan, students can choose whether to return to campus or study online. Residence halls and food services will open this weekend as planned, and students can return to campus this weekend.

Professors will work with students who choose to study online. Faculty members can also choose to move their courses fully online if they wish.

Staff will also receive flexible options for their work.

Monmouth will be holding workshops for faculty on moving courses online from now until March 23.

“There is no perfect answer to the crisis that has happened upon us,” a statement from the college reads. “We believe this response affirms our twin commitments to quality education and to campus community wellbeing -- even as we acknowledge that a pandemic has a way of throwing a wrench into that mission.”

-- Madeline St. Amour

Call for More Tests

March 13, 11:55 a.m. The Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health is calling on the Trump administration to take action to manufacture quality test kits for the novel coronavirus.

The association, which represents deans and directors of 128 accredited institutions for public health, said in a news release that it felt compelled to speak out about test-kit availability.

“When the United States failed to participate in the World Health Organization’s collaborative effort to bring testing to the world’s nations, it made an implicit commitment to provide its own tests,” the statement reads. “It has failed to do so, and clinical and public health organizations alike do not have anywhere near the testing capacity for an aggressive response to the expanding COVID-19 crisis.”

The association is asking the administration to use emergency public health measures and funding to facilitate public-private partnerships to validate and manufacture test kits for hospitals and clinics. Without enough reliable tests to diagnose and track the virus, the country won’t be able to combat the threat, according to the association.

-- Madeline St. Amour

Flexibility for Students Abroad

March 13, 11:55 a.m. The Student and Exchange Visitor Program announced that nonimmigrant students can temporarily use distance learning, either from within the U.S. or elsewhere, to continue their courses in light of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Some members of NAFSA: Association of International Educators had reported to the organization earlier that the Student and Exchange Visitor Program told schools and colleges to instead terminate records for students who took online portions of classes abroad.

After NAFSA contacted the program with their concerns and advocated that it allow schools and colleges to keep records in active status for students who switch to online courses, the program issued a statement correcting its guidance.

-- Madeline St. Amour

No Student Loan Relief Expected in Coronavirus Package From Congress

March, 13 11:40 a.m. The multibillion-dollar coronavirus package being negotiated by Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin isn’t expected to include a temporary suspension of student loan payments, said a Democratic House aide. Advocacy groups like Veterans Education Success and The Institute for College Access and Successhad been hoping for some temporary relief. House Democrats, however, are working on proposals to provide help.

Meanwhile, Senator Patty Murray, the top Democrat on the Senate's health and education committee, proposed a temporary exemption for students from repaying Pell Grants or student loans if their terms are disrupted. Under current law, Pell Grant recipients would have to return a portion of their grants to the federal government if they withdraw from school, or in this case, if their institution closes.

The bill, co-sponsored by Senator Chuck Schumer, the minority leader, and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, both New York Democrats, would provide $1.2 billion in funding to provide emergency financial aid to college students for basic needs created by unexpected college closures and COVID-19 related disruptions, including food, housing, health care and childcare needs.

It would also provide $1.2 billion in funding to help K-12 school districts and higher education institutions plan for closures, including how to provide meals to students, support efforts to clean and sanitize educational facilities, and to provide training to educators and other staff members on how to properly ensure their buildings are safe for students' return.

The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators applauded the co-sponsors “for acting quickly to find a solution to support financial aid recipients, who may now find themselves in dire situations in the face of this pandemic.”

-- Kery Murakami

Bogus Fliers at Bates College about 'Forced Contamination'

March 13, 10:50 a.m. Anonymous fliers appeared Wednesday on the campus of Bates College. They falsely claimed Bates was attempting to cope with the viral outbreak through "forced massed contamination," because the college had determined that students and all others will get COVID-19, the Lewiston Sun Journal reported.

The college, which is located in Maine, quickly denounced the fliers, calling on students, faculty and staff members to discard them.

“We are all doing our best to grapple with a very challenging public health situation, this kind of action reflects seriously poor judgment and blatant disregard for the concerns and well-being of others,” a Bates spokesman said in a message to the Bates community.

On Friday Bates announced it was suspending classes and moving to remote learning. The college said students must leave campus by today.

In a message to the campus, Clayton Spencer, Bates's president, expressed empathy for the resulting disruptions felt by students, their families and faculty and staff members.

"We find ourselves in a situation that is, quite literally, beyond our control. I understand that the solutions we are offering are necessarily imperfect and place extra demands on all members of our community," Spencer wrote. "I have heard from many students over the past week. Some have expressed their anxiety about staying on campus under current circumstances, and others have described to me how devastated they feel at the prospect of having to leave campus and their Bates world mid-semester. My heart goes out to all of our students, as these are genuinely stressful and difficult times. But this is an unprecedented situation, and we have no choice but to take this course of action."

-- Paul Fain

Wharton Creates Coronavirus Course

March 13, 10:30 a.m. As colleges across the country shut down or move online in response to the spread of the novel coronavirus, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania already is taking lessons from the outbreak and putting them into a course.

Epidemics, Natural Disasters and Geopolitics: Managing Global Business and Financial Uncertainty will be a six-week, half-credit course offered remotely starting March 25, after the college’s extended spring break, according to a news release.

The course will discuss financial market reactions to the coronavirus, emotional contagion and how the virus affects the trade war with China.

“There are significant business lessons to be learned from the global response to the coronavirus outbreak, and Wharton is at the forefront of sharing valuable insights and creating a community to exchange ideas,” said Geoff Garrett, dean of the Wharton School. “This is a teachable moment for the global academic community, and this course is just one example of how Wharton is coming together to provide support during a time of heightened anxiety and ambiguity.”

More than 450 students have already preregistered for the course.

-- Madeline St. Amour

U-Haul Offers Free Storage

March 13, 10:30 a.m. More colleges are telling students to pack up and head home for the semester due to the novel coronavirus, often leaving students with costs for moving or storing their belongings.

U-Haul has stepped forward to offer 30 days of free self-storage to college students in the U.S. and Canada in response to the outbreak, according to a news release from the company. It also includes use of the company’s portable moving and storage containers.

“We don’t know how every student is affected. But we know they are affected,” John Taylor, U-Haul’s president, said in the statement. “More and more universities are giving instructions to leave campus and go home. Students and their parents are in need of moving and storage solutions. We have the expertise and network to help, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”

The free month applies only to new customers with college IDs, according to the release.

U-Haul has offered this deal before to specific communities impacted by natural disasters, but this is the first time that it will be offered nationwide.

-- Madeline St. Amour

Sodexo Offers Expanded Sick Pay

March 13, 10:10 a.m. Sodexo, a company that operates food and dining services on many college campuses, announced Thursday that all employees, full- and part-time, will be granted sick pay for up to 21 days if they have a confirmed case of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, or are asked not to come in because of related symptoms.

This use of sick pay only will be available after an employee has used up their accrued sick time. The limited and haphazard coronavirus testing regimen in the U.S. raises questions about how many employees with the virus will be able to access tests and confirm their cases. The country is far behind others in its ability to test for the virus, a fact acknowledged Thursday by Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

“Sodexo is committed to the health and safety of our employees, our clients and the communities we serve, and that includes supporting our employees where we can if they get sick as they service our clients,” Sarosh Mistry, president of Sodexo USA, said in a statement. “Our long-standing commitment to our employees is something we will stand by, especially at a time like this.”

UT Austin Shuts Down Campus Operations

March 13, 9:20 a.m. Citing two positive cases of COVID-19 in the Austin area, the University of Texas at Austin on Friday morning canceled classes and closed operations. Only essential personnel should work today, the university said.

Yesterday UT Austin suspended campus visits and all university-sponsored travel and issued a worldwide recall of faculty, staff and students on university-sponsored trips.

-- Paul Fain

NCAA Cancels March Madness

March 12, 4:30 p.m. The National Collegiate Athletic Association canceled the Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, along with all other winter and spring championships scheduled for the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year, the association said in a statement.

“This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to spread of the pandemic and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time during this academic year given ongoing decisions by other entities,” the NCAA said.

-- Greta Anderson

Feds Issue Guidelines for FERPA

March 12, 4 p.m. The U.S. Department of Education has issued guidelines for institutions regarding the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, and the novel coronavirus COVID-19.

Generally, FERPA doesn’t allow colleges to provide information about a student to others without their consent. But there are some exceptions that could allow colleges to send information to others without consent as they deal with the spread of coronavirus, according to Amelia Vance, director of youth and education privacy at the Future of Privacy Forum. Vance said much of that guidance was already outlined in what the department released during the spread of the H1N1 virus.

The first exception allows colleges to disclose students’ personal information without their consent if that information is necessary to protect the health and safety of others. For example, if a student tests positive for coronavirus or has symptoms, the college can release a statement saying a student tested positive, without identifying the student.

Colleges could also send emails to students who shared specific classes with the sick student and identify them by name. While the guidance released today says those situations are typically rare, Vance said that likely will not be the case with coronavirus.

For those who are worried about violating regulations, Vance pointed to a 2009 FERPA regulation that said the department won’t second-guess a college’s determination in an emergency unless most people would consider it unreasonable.

The second exception allows colleges to identify students to public health departments. If the college declares it’s an emergency, it can provide that information without students’ consent. If a college said it’s not an emergency, the department could hypothetically issue a subpoena to get the information, Vance said.

College officials should keep in mind that they are required to record instances when they share students’ information without consent, Vance said. She recommends that they keep track in real time so they don’t have to retrace their steps after the situation calms down.

-- Madeline St. Amour

Ratings Agency Details Coronavirus Risks

March 12, 2:30 p.m. Operating and enrollment pressure could build on some colleges and universities as COVID-19 spreads, according to a note out this afternoon from Fitch Ratings.

Institutions with limited liquidity, those that rely heavily on tuition revenue and those that rely more heavily on endowment draws to fund operations generally have less ability to absorb revenue volatility before their finances take a hit, the note said. Those with larger operating margins and cash flow flexibility enjoy a stronger position.

Sources of operating risk include campus closures or other restrictions on students, faculty and staff. They also include lower dorm-occupancy rates and branch campuses abroad closing. Closures of only a few weeks aren’t expected to have a large impact on colleges’ operating performance, but pressures will build the longer campuses are shuttered.

Fees loom as an important issue. Income from auxiliary services like housing, dining and parking have grown in importance for many colleges and universities. A decline in fee revenue from services could affect margins if it stretches into the fall 2020 semester, according to the ratings agency.

Normally, universities don’t have to refund auxiliary fees, but some colleges may be choosing to do so on a prorated basis for services no longer being provided.

Fitch expects reliance on online classes to grow in the next few months, adding to an expected increase in online education over the long term. Enrollment during campus shutdowns could decline at institutions without strong online learning platforms.

Universities with significant international student populations could be in line for reduced enrollment and subsequent pressure on net tuition revenue in the upcoming academic year. The risk is notable because research universities tend to have the largest numbers of international students, but they also have stronger financial profiles than other types of institutions.

Market declines are expected to hit endowments but not have an impact on bond ratings. Fitch also mentioned the possibility that reduced economic activity could hit state budgets and in turn public funding for colleges and universities. But the ratings agency called the size of such effects unclear at this point.

-- Rick Seltzer

Duke Suspends All Athletic Activities

March 12, 2:20 p.m. Duke University appears to be the first power-conference institution to cancel all its athletics events. Vincent Price, Duke's president, said the university was suspending all practices and games, effective immediately.

“We are taking this action to protect the safety of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and others who are essential to these activities,” Price said in a statement. “I know it is a great disappointment to our student-athletes and coaches, whose hard work and dedication to their sports and Duke is inspirational to so many, but we must first look out for their health and well-being. This is clearly an unprecedented moment for our university, our region and the wider world. As we take steps to confront the spread of this virus, I’m grateful for the cooperation and support of the entire Duke community.”

The decision means Duke's perennial powerhouse men's basketball team, currently ranked No. 6 nationally in some polls, will not be participating in the NCAA tournament.

"We emphatically support the decision made by Dr. Price today regarding the suspension of athletic competition at Duke," Mike Krzyzewski, the men's basketball coach, said in the statement. "The welfare of our student-athletes, and all students at Duke, is paramount, and this decision reflects that institutional priority. Certainly, I want to applaud Dr. Price, who took a leadership role with his presidential peers and the Atlantic Coast Conference in arriving at this decision."

The University of Kansas, Arizona State University and West Virginia University followed with similar announcements on Thursday afternoon.

-- Paul Fain

Conferences Cancel Basketball Tournaments

March 12, 12:25 p.m. The Big Ten, the Southeastern Conference and the American Athletic Conference will not proceed with men’s basketball conference tournaments, fearing the spread of COVID-19.

Some men’s basketball games for these conferences have already taken place this week, and the women’s basketball conference championships for the Big Ten, SEC and AAC are complete.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association announced Wednesday it would hold Division I championship tournament games without public spectators, but it has made no indication of plans to postpone or cancel the tournament.

-- Greta Anderson

NASPA Cancels Annual Conference

March 12, 12:10 p.m. The annual conference for the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, NASPA, has been canceled due to growing concern over the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.

The conference was scheduled to run March 28 through April 1 in Austin, Tex. After the city declared a public health emergency and the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, the organization sent out an email canceling the event.

Those who were registered for the event must email NASPA to cancel and receive refunds. Otherwise, the payments will automatically go toward fees for next year’s conference.

The organization plans to hold free virtual, live-streaming keynotes and other session from March 30 to April 10 in place of the conference.

The only other time NASPA has canceled its largest annual gathering was during World War II. Several other higher education organizations have canceled conferences, including the American Council of Education, the Association of American Colleges and Universities, and the International Studies Association.

-- Madeline St. Amour

Growing Number of Two-Year Colleges Move Online

March 12, noon. Community colleges face a broad range of challenges in moving classes online, most notably a relative lack of resources among both the colleges and their students. But large numbers have begun making the switch in the last 24 hours. The Los Angeles Community College District and its nine colleges, for example, announced yesterday that it would suspend as many in-person classes as possible and move them to an online platform.

A spokesman for California's community college system, Paul Feist, said Thursday that the system's 115 colleges, which enroll 2.1 million students, can start moving courses online now and submit requests for approval after the fact. He said more than a dozen colleges had already told the chancellor’s office they are making the change. Very few are choosing to shut down campuses completely.

“The colleges are working very hard to protect the health and safety of students and staff while continuing with the educational mission,” Feist said. “We are accustomed in California to dealing with disasters, and community colleges will be a critical resource as we work through this.”

Other two-year institutions making similar moves include Long Beach City CollegeDes Moines Area Community CollegeParkland College in Illinois, Maryland's Harford Community CollegeCuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, Rhode Island Community College and Northern Virginia Community College. The City University of New York, which includes seven community colleges, yesterday announced the transition.

"By transitioning to distance learning, CUNY will be upholding its responsibility as the largest urban public university in the country and meeting our goal of minimizing exposure to those on our campus communities to coronavirus transmission," Félix V. Matos Rodríguez, CUNY's chancellor, said in a statement.

-- Madeline St. Amour and Paul Fain

Relief Fund for Students Affected by Closures

March 11, 11:22 p.m. The new Student Relief Fund is offering to match donations of up to $5,000 for grants aimed at the hundreds of thousands of college students who are affected by campus closures over COVID-19 concerns, who may face hunger and homelessness as a result. Believe in Students, Edquity and the Rise Fund are matching the donations. The grants will be distributed as emergency aid by Edquity and the FAST Fund, which has locations in 18 cities around the U.S.

-- Paul Fain

New Guidance for Colleges in New Jersey, Medical Colleges

March 11, 6:28 p.m. The New Jersey Office of the Secretary of Higher Education issued new guidance for colleges and universities to make coronavirus-related decisions that affect campus life. The guidance addressed material hardships students might face, travel directives, continuity of instruction, quarantine facilities and procedures, cleaning protocols, and efforts to reduce anxiety

"These considerations include handling basic needs for those who need it (such as housing and food); notifying the surrounding community -- including municipal and county leadership and the local business community -- and decision-making involved with re-convening in-person instruction if an institution has decided to move its classes online," the office of Zakiya Smith Ellis, New Jersey's higher education secretary, said in a statement.

The Association of American Medical Colleges released new recommendations after a meeting at the White House. They covered:

  • Increasing the availability and capacity of testing.
  • Ensuring adequate supplies and stewardship of personal protective equipment.
  • Holding patients harmless for the cost of testing and treatment.
  • Increasing the availability and use of telehealth.
  • Supporting hospitals’ efforts to expand capacity to meet surging needs.

"America’s academic medical centers are committed to mounting a vigorous response to contain and mitigate COVID-19 and to providing quality care to any patient affected by this public health emergency, including the under- and uninsured," Dr. David J. Skorton, the association's president and CEO, said in a statement. "Because of their expert faculty physicians, highly trained health care teams and cutting-edge medical technology, major teaching hospitals consistently maintain a heightened level of preparedness to respond rapidly to any major event at any time."

-- Paul Fain

Man With University of Delaware Connections is State’s Presumptive First Positive Case

March 11, 5:45 p.m. The Delaware Division of Public Health has announced the state’s presumptive first positive cause of COVID-19, which involves “a New Castle County man over the age of 50 who is associated with the University of Delaware community.”

The man affected was exposed to another confirmed case in a different state, according to officials. He is not severely ill. He isolated himself at home when symptoms appeared.

Epidemiologists are attempting to identify other individuals who were potentially exposed. Students, faculty and staff members with concerns about exposure risks are being asked to contact a University of Delaware call center.

-- Rick Seltzer

More Universities Plan Remote Classes

March 11, 5:30 p.m. Several more major universities and systems have announced plans of varying scale for remote classes, affecting hundreds of thousands of students: the University of North Carolina system, Penn State University, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Kentucky.

Penn State is strongly discouraging many students from returning to campus for several weeks. Penn is asking students to leave by Sunday.

The University of North Carolina system’s institutions will move from in-person instruction to “a system of alternative course delivery, where possible and practical, no later than March 20.” The alternative course delivery is to officially start March 23 and last indefinitely, but the system aims to return to in-person instruction as soon as possible.

Outside events and gatherings of 100 or more people are being canceled or postponed, and the university is suspending sponsored travel to in-state gatherings of 100 or more people, as well as travel outside the state, unless specially authorized.

Penn State University will move to remote instruction from March 16 through April 3. It plans to go back to in-person classes Monday, April 6, at the earliest.

During the three weeks following spring break, Penn State undergraduate and law students at all campus locations are being “strongly discouraged” from returning to on- and off-campus locations and dwellings. Residence halls and dining facilities will not be reopened for normal operations during the period, beyond facilities already in use.

Graduate students are also being asked to participate in classes remotely and not come to campus “specifically for face-to-face instruction.” Students who must be on campus will be worked with on an individual basis.

Elsewhere in Pennsylvania, the University of Pennsylvania is extending its spring break for all students aside from those in health-related schools or programs who have already had break or who are in clinical rotations. Penn plans to migrate classroom teaching to virtual instruction for both undergraduate and graduate classes, to begin March 23 and continue through the rest of the semester.

Penn is asking students who are out of town to not return to campus. Those on campus are being asked to leave by Sunday.

The University of Kentucky will remain open but continue instruction through “online or other alternatives” from March 23 through April 3 -- the two weeks after its spring break for most students. It intends to go back to normal course delivery April 6.

Kentucky students will be able to return to campus residence halls. Research and health-care activities are set to continue as planned. But all international travel sponsored or endorsed by the university has been indefinitely suspended. Any travelers arriving from Europe and Japan will be required to “self-isolate” for 14 days before being allowed on campus.

Further, the University of Kentucky is strongly discouraging university-sponsored or -endorsed domestic travel.

-- Rick Seltzer

No Fans for March Madness Tournaments

March 11, 4:51 p.m. The National Collegiate Athletic Association will move forward with its men’s and women’s championship basketball tournaments without public spectators, Mark Emmert, the NCAA's president, said in a statement Wednesday.

This means only essential staff and some family members will be permitted to be in the audience of the upcoming weeks of March Madness tournament games, which begin March 17. The precautions will help to protect the fans from transmitting COVID-19, as “behavioral risk mitigation strategies are the best option for slowing the spread of the disease,” the NCAA’s coronavirus advisory panel said in a statement.

A number of individual institutions, athletic conferences and governments have already canceled or issued limitations or bans on spectators at NCAA events across the country.

“While I understand how disappointing this is for all fans of our sports, my decision is based on the current understanding of how COVID-19 is progressing in the United States,” Emmert said. “This decision is in the best interest of public health, including that of coaches, administrators, fans and, most importantly, our student-athletes. We recognize the opportunity to compete in an NCAA national championship is an experience of a lifetime for the students and their families.”

-- Greta Anderson

Striking Grad Students Criticize UC Santa Cruz's Move Online

March 11, 4:45 p.m. Striking graduate students at the University of California, Santa Cruz, have put out a statement regarding the university's move to suspend face-to-face classes and begin instruction online in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. The university, the students said, has weaponized the public health crisis to break the wildcat strike.

"We see the university’s turn to emergency measures as a rehearsal for a permanent shift to large scale online instruction, accelerating the creep of online teaching with little oversight, with no bargaining, and with little to no transparency," the statement said. "As UCSC looks for ways to operate in the spring after losing around 80 graduate student employees, the turn to online learning would set an alarming precedent for how a university can function without its workers."

The university dismissed or declined to appoint around 80 graduate student teaching assistants who were withholding grades. The graduate student strike began in December. It is a labor action in demand of a cost-of-living adjustment by the university.

“For undergraduates, this is not the education that they paid for,” the statement said. “Online teaching is a poor substitute for learning in a classroom, and has been shown to diminish the value of a university education."

The grads will continue with a digital picket, which involves continuing to withhold grades, keeping any grade updates off Canvas, not teaching classes online and having undergraduates submit assignments directly to TAs.

The university responded, "As local, national and global public health recommendations increasingly shift to efforts to mitigate transmission by social distancing, UC Santa Cruz is proactively taking steps to protect our campus community. In our assessment of the current situation, we believe that this is the best action for our campus and the broader Santa Cruz community."

-- Lilah Burke

SUNY and CUNY Move to Distance Learning

March 11, 3:55 p.m. The State University of New York and City University of New York systems will move to distance learning for the rest of the semester, the state's governor, Andrew Cuomo, has announced.

"This will help us reduce density and reduce the spread of this virus," the governor said in a statement on Twitter.

A statement from the governor's office later clarified that the two public university systems will "implement plans to maximize distance learning and reduce in-person classes, beginning March 19, for the remainder of the spring semester in light of the evolving novel coronavirus situation in New York. All campuses will develop plans catered to the campus and curriculum-specific needs while reducing density in the campus environment to help slow possibility for exposures to novel coronavirus. Distance learning and other options will be developed by campuses."

Hundreds of thousands of students will be affected by the move, making it one of the most significant yet seen across the country. SUNY reported fall head-count enrollment of more than 415,000 across its campuses. CUNY reported nearly 275,000 in 2018.

The SUNY Student Assembly issued a response voicing appreciation for the move while also acknowledging the fact that students will require assistance.

"Continuing SUNY’s tradition of inclusive and accessible academic excellence is as important as ever," the assembly's statement said. "The SUNY Student Assembly looks forward to working with Chancellor [Kristina M.] Johnson and her team to ensure that students have all the resources and support that they need as we make this transition.”

-- Rick Seltzer

AAC&U Conference Cancellation

March 11, 3:32 p.m. Another association has called off a conference, as the Association of American Colleges & Universities canceled its 2020 Conference on Diversity, Equity and Student Success, which had been slated to be held in New Orleans March 19-21.

AAC&U is planning to present some keynote sessions and workshops virtually. Materials from presentations for concurrent sessions will go up online. The association plans to reach out to those registered soon with information about participating virtually or options for refunds.

“The health and safety of conference participants and AAC&U staff members are our highest priorities and were the determining factors in this difficult decision,” AAC&U said in a statement.

-- Rick Seltzer

Big Ten Says Hoops Tournaments Still On

March 11, 3:15 p.m. The Big Ten Conference said Wednesday afternoon that its men's basketball tournament will continue as scheduled. The games are set to tip off this evening.

"The Big Ten Conference’s main priority is to ensure the safety of our students, coaches, administrators, event staff, fans and media as we continue to monitor all relevant information on the COVID-19 virus," the Big Ten said in a statement.

The Ivy League on Tuesday canceled its men's and women's basketball tournaments over coronavirus concerns. Some conference basketball players criticized the move, creating an online petition calling for the tournaments to be reinstated.

"The hypocrisy of our Ivy League presidents is baffling and alarming," said the petition. "We are disappointed and disheartened that they would discriminate against one sport and allow the others to continue to compete."

On Wednesday the conference dropped all athletics practice and competition through the remainder of the spring.

Local authorities have banned large gatherings in San Francisco and the Seattle area, according to news reports.

-- Paul Fain

University Closures Continue

March 11, 1:30 p.m. The University of Massachusetts system, the University System of Maryland, the University of Virginia, Georgetown University, George Washington University and Johns Hopkins University are among the latest institutions to move classes online and to urge students to leave campus.

UMass's five campuses will "shift to a virtual mode of instruction" beginning on March 16 and through at least April 3, the system said in a statement. Most of the system's 75,000 students will not be on campus during that time, said UMass.

The University System of Maryland on Tuesday urged all of its universities across the 12-institution system to prepare for students to remain off campus for at least two weeks after the system's spring break, which begins Saturday and ends on March 22.

George Washington and Johns Hopkins both announced the suspension of in-person classes, which will move to online or remote versions.

UVA’s shift to online instruction will begin on March 19, James E. Ryan, the university’s president, said in a statement.

“Students who are away on spring break are strongly encouraged to return home or to remain home if they are already there,” Ryan said. “Students on grounds and in Charlottesville are strongly encouraged to return home by this weekend.”

Georgetown’s move to online will begin on March 19. The university strongly encouraged undergraduate students to move to their permanent addresses.

“We understand that for some number of students there will be a compelling reason to remain on campus,” the university said in a statement. “Campus will remain open and key services will be available.”

-- Paul Fain

More Campus and Conference Suspensions

March 11, 12:30 p.m. Michigan State University was one of the latest and largest universities to announce the suspension of all in-person classes, effective at noon Wednesday. The university said in a statement that health authorities were investigating and monitoring someone linked to the campus for coronavirus-related concerns.

Notre Dame University also announced Wednesday that it is moving to online instruction and canceling in-person classes, beginning March 23 though at least April 13.

By Wednesday morning, roughly 90 colleges and universities had shut down their campuses or suspended in-person instruction and moved it online or to distance delivery, according to a crowdsourced Google sheet created by Bryan Alexander, a futurist, researcher and senior scholar at Georgetown University.

Several others are helping Alexander maintain the database, which is being populated by contributors throughout higher education. It has crashed several times due to heavy traffic.

ASU+GSV, a meeting focused on education technology, postsecondary education and workforce development that had been scheduled for April in San Diego, has been postponed until the fall.

Organizers of the conference, which hosted 5,500 attendees last year, said postponing was “the best option to protect our community and to have a truly productive convening.”

The American Association of Geographers also announced the cancellation of its April meeting in Denver. The group said Wednesday morning that it would shift to an online version, free of charge.

-- Paul Fain

Low-Income Students and Campus Shutdowns

March 11, noon. Harvard University is giving students less than a week to pack up, leave campus and not return after spring break is over.

Primus, a student organization at Harvard that advocates for the university's low-income and first-generation students, put out a statement highlighting several ways this expectation will be close to impossible for students who are not privileged.

Many can't afford unexpected travel costs to get home. They're expected to pay for storage units for on-campus belongings. Students won't be able to rely on their on-campus jobs. And they're being asked to make all these changes while still attending classes this week.

On top of that, students will have to take courses online, which requires internet access and computers.

"These closures disproportionately affect the most vulnerable groups of students on campus," said Anthony Abraham Jack, assistant professor of education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, later adding, "I know what it means to be affected by something that money can't stop, but money helps you through. So when you don't come from money, you feel the full brunt of it."

Beyond financial constraints, some students may not have safe homes to return to, he said. Jack said he knows of one student who lives an hour from home but never visits, because the student is queer and doesn't get a bed at home. Other students never had three square meals a day and a consistent roof over their heads until coming to college, Jack added.

"Even if college is hell, it can still be a sanctuary for some students," he said.

Primus has organized a document of resources and answers for students on financial assistance and help from alumni. But Jack said it's unfair to expect students to take on the job of the university.

"We must be better, as college officials, at outlining processes so students can just be students," he said. "Right now, colleges are addressing this pandemic almost solely as a public health issue, when it's actually one affecting inequalities on campuses."

-- Madeline St. Amour

Unrest at the University of Dayton

March 11, 11:30 a.m. A large crowd including students from the University of Dayton gathered on the Ohio campus yesterday after the university on Tuesday suspended in-person classes due to coronavirus concerns. The university called on all residential students to leave campus by 6 p.m. Wednesday.

Students began gathering in large numbers after the announcement. The Dayton Daily News reported that police officers from multiple departments, some wearing riot gear, cleared the crowd, which dispersed by 2:15 a.m. One person was injured in the disturbance, according to the university.

Students were not reacting to the coronavirus measures, the university said, but instead “wanted one last large gathering” before Dayton’s spring break, which begins Friday.

“A large disorderly crowd that grew to more than 1,000 people gathered on Lowes Street starting around 11 p.m., throwing objects and bottles in the street and at police, and jumping on cars,” the university said in a written statement. “Police gave verbal orders to disperse which were ignored. Police initially launched pepper balls, which contain powder with an irritant that disperses quickly, that were unsuccessful in reducing the crowd size.”



-- Paul Fain

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