Government Affairs

Policy Matters | US Dept of Education Issues Guidance for Higher Education + Congressional Action on COVID-19; UPCEA Advocacy and Resources (March 2020)

March 24, 2020
Much congressional action has been taken since the COVID-19 crisis began. A bill that provides tax relief for businesses to support paid sick leave and free coronavirus testing; one authorizing $8.3 billion to help government agencies respond to the virus; and a bill protecting GI Bill housing benefits for online veteran students, are all now public law. At this moment, discussion is ongoing on the major stimulus package, the biggest piece of legislation yet to address the issue, or any American crisis, ever. The GOP bill first offered did not pass due to discrepancies with Democrats about the size and specifics. Bipartisan talks continue between House and Senate leadership along with the White House in hopes of a quick passage of a monumental stimulus.

Higher education is a major piece of the puzzle being negotiated, and it is a small example of the bigger argument over why the stimulus bill’s progress has been hindered. Republicans aren’t going far enough, critics say, and are putting too much emphasis on banks and corporations. They have provided funding short of what leaders of the higher education community say is necessary for adequate relief and dollars for students and institutions. Democrats are trying to enact their own legislative goals, with efforts like $10,000 per person in federal student debt forgiveness and including non-specific COVID-19 tax relief for renewable energy, and are unfairly using it as leverage to pass their version of the bill, their critics have argued. What everyone agrees on is that the uncertainty, damage, and present loss of funding is real, and warrants a major response. How to be prescient about what comes next and how to best serve those hardest hit while helping to prop up the economy is where the challenge lies.

Legislative and regulatory changes have already occurred due to this crisis, and institutions and their interaction with the government over the next year will be important. Below, we are highlighting some major news items and actions that the U.S. Department of Education has taken, . We also highlight letters and responses to other policy actions occurring over the past few weeks that UPCEA has advocated for.

Major Updates

Resources and Letters from UPCEA

  • UPCEA Requests Congressional Action on COVID-19 Supports for Students and Institutions
    • UPCEA joins ACE and 80 organizations to ask Congress for: Emergency Aid to Students and Support for Institutions; Access to Low-Cost Capital; Technology Implementation Fund; and Temporary Flexibility
    • UPCEA joins 50 organizations to help students during COVID-19 crisis. We asked congress to: allow for direct emergency funds to cover basic needs; allow for flexibility with the Pell Grant Lifetime Eligibility Usage; and ensure no penalty to a student’s Satisfactory Academic Progress status. 
  • UPCEA Supports GI Housing Benefits for Online Students – UPCEA along with other associations supported S. 3503 which has now been signed into public law.
  •  – curated website of information and resources for higher ed professionals regarding COVID-19 and emergency online delivery and instruction. 

Stay engaged and informed! . For more information on UPCEA government affairs, contact Jordan DiMaggio ().

UPCEA is a proud founding member of advocacy groups such as the Today's Students Coalition as well as the National Adult Learner Coalition.

UPCEA Policy Committee

Ricky LaFosse, University of Michigan, Chair
Kristen Brown, University of Louisville
Allison Friederichs, University of Denver
Mary Niemec, University of Nebraska
Reed Scull, University of Wyoming
Dick Senese, Capella University


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