Government Affairs

UPCEA Asks Congress for Additional Funding, Online Student Support, Waiver Authority

April 22, 2020

Today UPCEA has sent a letter to Capitol Hill congressional leadership regarding the need for additional funding, waiver authority, and online student support in future funding calculations.

Once on the periphery of institutions of higher education, today our members are front and center as all postsecondary learning has rapidly shifted to a remote format. Over the next months and years the increased use of online education will serve a larger population of learners than could have been imagined even months ago. To this end, we asked for congressional support: in providing additional funding for these students and institutions; by recognizing and qualifying distance education students as part of any future disbursement calculations; and to provide broad waiver authority to the Secretary of Education for a temporary period of time. 

American higher education is confronted with unprecedented challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some recent estimates of the loss carried by institutions amounts to $46.6 billion. Emergency grants to students totaling $23.3 billion will enable them to begin or continue their college educations. As you know, the CARES Act provided only $14 billion to higher education, and based on these estimates, a significantly higher amount of funding is required to meet the needs of these students and institutions, and the communities they live in. 

However, we requested that for future funding, the calculation of funds disbursement be adjusted to include distance education students. While this was explicitly not the case in the CARES Act summation, taking into account the large portion of students and institutions who participate in full-time distance education programs will bring needed support during these unprecedented times. Online educators and administrators are taking part in helping minimize academic disruption across the nation, and their units and institutions are key in upholding and expanding the access to education in these times of social distancing. Over the next several weeks, we anticipate there will be increased conversations about the effectiveness of online education, the role online education can and should play in continuity planning, how to effectively transition face-to-face courses online during a crisis, and how to best support both faculty and learners who might unexpectedly need to navigate online learning spaces. These are all critical conversations, and these discussions will underscore the need for current online students and institutions to be supported equally in these funding allocations. 

We also asked for further waiver authority for higher education institutions from the Secretary during a limited timeframe. While we saw limited waiver authority granted to the Secretary for certain institutions and provisions related to higher education in the CARES Act, we believe more is needed. Institutions face numerous deadlines, existing requirements, and regulations which many institutions will struggle to meet as we move through this crisis and its fallout. Institutions of higher education should be granted streamlined waivers in regards to these matters, similar to K-12 institutions. We feel it is necessary to provide this authority only during the timeframe in which disaster relief is needed for institutions and students affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

Click here to read the full letter.

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