Colleges and universities have asked congressional leaders to allocate at least $120 billion to help higher education institutions cope with hardship caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education, wrote two letters to congressional leaders on behalf of dozens of higher education groups. The first was submitted in September.
“We write to request that any supplemental funding bill include at least $120 billion for higher education in order to partially mitigate the challenges that students and institutions are facing,” he explained.
The second was submitted last week when Mitchell provided additional details on the struggles faced by colleges and universities due to the pandemic.
“While it is too soon to have a detailed summary of all the losses and new expenses institutions are facing on a national level, we have been able to survey institutions and provide a clearer picture of the pandemic’s impact on students and colleges,” he wrote.
Mitchell stated that, in light of new data, previous estimates drastically underestimated the struggles schools face in staying afloat. While his request for federal assistance remains unchanged at a minimum of $120 billion, he urged Congress to “finalize negotiations as quickly as possible.”
Increased Expenses, Decreased Revenue
Some expenses that colleges have incurred in their efforts to keep the rates of infection down include extensive sanitation procedures and testing kits for students, faculty, and staff. Others have gone so far as to test wastewater to assess the rate of COVID-19 infection.
The financial toll has affected students and their families as well, who have called for discounts in tuition and fees as a result of reduced services.
As the Senate continues negotiating its COVID-19 relief bill, ACE and over 100 other groups write to Congress about the needs of college students and institutions, and the existential crisis facing U.S. higher education. https://t.co/gZVo8fOL06
— ACE (@ACEducation) December 7, 2020
International students, who pay the highest tuition and fees for university education in the US, deferred their enrollments for the 2020-21 academic year. This adds to the financial toll on universities.
In the school year beginning in September, new enrollment of international students dropped by 43 percent while nearly 40,000 students, composed mostly of incoming freshmen, deferred enrollment at 90 percent of US institutions.
Barriers to Enrollment Across The Board
The coronavirus pandemic has made it difficult for students across the board to continue their education. The American College Health Association and the Healthy Minds Network found that overall, 63 percent of college students experienced financial losses because of the pandemic.
Lower-income students are also at increased risk of delaying their education, with a study from the Journal of Public Economics stating that they are 55 percent likelier than their higher-income peers to have delayed graduation during the pandemic.
“The current situation is unsustainable for an extended period and at this point, there are simply no other sufficient options for institutions beyond meaningful federal assistance. That support is needed urgently,” Mitchell wrote.