Senators Shaheen and Hassan Urge Senate Leadership to Provide Much-Needed Relief for Higher Education Institutions in Upcoming COVID-19 Legislation

June 12, 2020

WASHINGTON U.S. Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) joined Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and a group of their colleagues today in urging Senate leadership to include $47 billion in financial support for students and institutions of higher learning in the upcoming COVID-19 relief package.

"Higher education provides a ladder of economic opportunity to our nation’s students while also building a globally competitive workforce. Colleges and universities are also pillars of communities,” the Senators wrote. “Across the entire higher education sector, institutions last year directly employed 3.6 million individuals. Additionally, research universities are at the forefront in searching for scientific solutions to some of society’s greatest challenges, including COVID-19. These immense contributions to society are at grave risk without additional support.”

“Students are facing complex financial emergencies that threaten their ability to remain on their path to degree completion,” the Senators continued. “The needs are particularly pronounced for students of color, low-income students, veterans, and first-generation college students. Colleges and universities have taken immediate steps to protect individual health by shifting to remote learning platforms so students can maintain academic progress during the disruption, but face massive increases in expenses combined with a precipitous decline in revenue.”

In their letter, the Senators also emphasized the substantial costs and losses already incurred by institutions of higher education as enrollment declines and state budgets have been strained due to COVID-19-related revenue losses. To meet the needs of these schools and their students during this challenging time, the Senators requested that significant additional emergency relief be provided by Congress, and that schools receive the flexibility that they need to use the funding most effectively within their communities.

Senators Shaheen and Hassan are working to support institutions of higher education during this challenging time, and joined the rest of the New Hampshire Congressional Delegation in announcing $41 million for higher education institutions in New Hampshire as part of the bipartisan CARES Act. Senator Hassan also recently participated in a Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing on reopening college campuses, where she urged the Department of Education to help ensure that college students can receive adjusted financial aid to account for changes in their financial situation, such as a lost job or income, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The full text of the letter is available here and can be found below.

Dear Majority Leader McConnell and Minority Leader Schumer:

Thank you for your swift and robust action to alleviate the health and economic impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). As you prepare for a fourth economic relief package, we respectfully urge you to provide $47 billion in financial support for students and institutions of higher learning.

Higher education provides a ladder of economic opportunity to our nation’s students while also building a globally competitive workforce. Colleges and universities are also pillars of communities. Across the entire higher education sector, institutions last year directly employed 3.6 million individuals. Additionally, research universities are at the forefront in searching for scientific solutions to some of society’s greatest challenges, including COVID-19. These immense contributions to society are at grave risk without additional support.

Congress responded in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to the emergency financial needs of students, colleges, and universities by providing $14 billion in support through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund.

However, students and institutions are experiencing vastly greater need. Students are facing complex financial emergencies that threaten their ability to remain on their path to degree completion. The needs are particularly pronounced for students of color, low-income students, veterans, and first generation college students. Colleges and universities have taken immediate steps to protect individual health by shifting to remote learning platforms so students can maintain academic progress during the disruption, but face massive increases in expenses combined with a precipitous decline in revenue.

In addition to the substantial costs and losses already faced by institutions, the threat of ongoing financial uncertainty stemming from enrollment declines and state cuts threaten the financial stability of schools. The situation requires significant additional emergency relief from Congress. Congress should also provide more flexibility in the use of funds to ensure that federal investment can be effectively targeted by colleges and universities to meet the needs of students and communities.

We thank you for your support of these critical investments in our nation’s students and institutions of higher learning.