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Colleges: Financial Toll of Coronavirus Worse Than Anticipated

September 29, 2020
 
 

The coronavirus pandemic has taken an even deeper financial toll on colleges and universities than expected, said associations representing two- and four-year institutions. In a letter to House of Representatives leaders, the groups nearly tripled the amount of help they say is needed from Congress in another aid package, to at least $120 billion. 

The letter sent by the American Council on Education and 45 other higher education groups to Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican House minority leader Kevin McCarthy comes as House Democrats are planning to vote, possibly this week, on another bid to try to dislodge the stalemate over additional aid.

Democrats are expected to propose a $2.3 trillion package, which would be $1 trillion less than the $3.3 trillion proposal they made for another aid bill in passing the HEROES Act in May. However, the White House has said it would not go along with another package above $1.5 trillion, and a deal is still considered unlikely. House Democrats, though, late on Monday unveiled a package that proposes only about $39 billion for postsecondary education.

In the letter, the groups say that far more is needed than the $27 billion contained in the HEROES Act or the $46.6 billion the groups had previously sought.

Even in requesting the $46.6 billion, the higher education groups had estimated the cost of lost revenue and of reopening campuses to be $120 billion. But groups said they are upping their request as they have seen a bigger toll than anticipated.

“As our country’s colleges and universities enter the new academic year, it has become increasingly clear that earlier estimates of both the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the costs associated with resuming classes were far lower than what institutions and students are now experiencing,” the letter said.

“Now, roughly one month into the fall semester, our members are reporting that their revenue losses and new costs have already greatly exceeded this amount, especially in areas such as testing, contact tracing, quarantine, treatment, and learning technology. For their part, many of our students and their families are struggling with reduced incomes and job losses, resulting in the need for billions of dollars in increased student aid.”

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