Government Affairs

UPCEA Signs Letters to Congress on COVID-19 Supports for Students and Institutions

March 20, 2020

UPCEA joined with ACE and dozens of other organizations to write congressional leadership to outline the ways in which we believe the federal government can assist students, educators and institutions in recovering from the impact of COVID-19.

Colleges and universities are uniquely vulnerable to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, as our educational and research missions necessitate regular interactions in lecture halls, classrooms, dormitories, theaters, and stadiums. Like every segment of our society, higher education institutions have struggled to balance multiple concerns while prioritizing the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff.

The impact has been profound. 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.

This reverberates far beyond our campuses. Colleges and universities are the largest employers in many areas, and serve as economic, civic, and cultural hubs for their communities. Students and staff patronize and support innumerable local businesses, and the scientific research and development performed on campuses across the country drive our national economy and enhance our global competitiveness. At this moment, the only knowable financial impact of the novel coronavirus on college and universities at this time is that it will be substantial. Already, Moody’s has downgraded the higher education sector from stable to negative, explaining that “universities face unprecedented enrollment uncertainty, risks to multiple revenue streams, and potential material erosion in their balance sheets.” Students and their families rightfully expect to receive the services they’ve paid for. Partial refunding of tuition and fees by schools that have closed, and partial refunding of other charges—on-campus housing and meal plans, for example—for those who have moved their instructional programs wholly online is ongoing. Some schools have kept campus housing operational for students that did not have anywhere to go, which also carries financial implications. But these actions will concurrently constrain the near-term cash flows that undergird institutions’ day-to-day operations. Unlike for-profit businesses, non-profits and public institutions cannot make up these losses from future revenues.

Beyond these functional demands, institutions are tasked in new ways to help their students and preserve their campuses. Just a few examples of these new efforts include: the deep cleaning of campus buildings; providing shelter for foster, homeless, and international students; providing transportation to send students home; packaging and shipping personal belongings students had to leave behind; moving to remote food delivery; canceling uninsured events with caterers, venues, etc., and many more.

In order to remedy the damage COVID-19 has caused to students and schools, we believe the federal government should move quickly to implement four key efforts to address the challenges students and campuses are facing, and alleviate the harm they’ve already
experienced. These initiatives are:

  • Emergency Aid to Students and Support for Institutions
  • Access to Low-Cost Capital
  • Technology Implementation Fund
  • Temporary Flexibility 

Click here to read the full letter to Senate leadership
Click here to read the full letter to House leadership.

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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