New England Council, like NEBHE, Calls on Congress to Provide Relief for Higher Ed amid COVID-19 Woes

By The New England Council

DC Shuttle …

New England Council Calls on Senators to Provide COVID-19 Relief to Colleges. The New England Council sent a letter calling on Congress to provide relief to colleges and universities in light of the COVID-19 public health crisis that has forced them to close their campuses to students. In a letter sent to each New England senator, as well as Senate leadership, on March 20, the Council stressed the important role that our region’s higher education institutions play in the region’s economy and outlined the devastating impact the crisis is having on the institutions themselves, as well as on their students directly. The letter outlined several areas where the federal government could provide support to colleges and universities, including financial support for students and institutions, housing and meal assistance, technology for remote learning and relief from Title IV regulations. The New England Board of Higher Education and various higher education partners sent a similar letter to the New England congressional delegation.

Congressional Democrats Introduce Legislation to Provide Resources to Schools and Educators. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, introduced a bill (S.3489) to provide funds to a variety of programs—from early childhood facilities to aid for college students without housing—to minimize disruptions as schools across the country close. The bill follows repeated requests from Murray and her Democratic colleagues for a comprehensive response from the Education Department on how it plans to address the novel coronavirus outbreak. Companion legislation (H.R. 6275) was introduced by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), chair of the House Education and Labor Committee. Education Dive reports.

Trump Administration Waives Interest on all Federal Student Loans. To help mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak on the 42 million Americans with student debt, the Trump administration waived interest rates on all federal student loans indefinitely. While consumer groups and student advocates praised the measure, some say it doesn’t go far enough to help students and wonder if the move is even legal. To supplement these efforts to assist student borrowers, the Office of Management and Budget has asked the administration for an additional $150 million for the Department of Education. The Washington Post has more.

Education Department Releases Materials for Students with Disabilities During School Closures. The Department of Education released a webinar to assure educators and families that all online learning materials would remain accessible for students with disabilities as schools are closed. In addition to the webinar, the department’s Office of Civil Rights released a fact sheet outlining the protections these students have during school closures. These releases follow a letter written last week by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) asking the department for its plan to ensure equal access for students with disabilities. Read the press release here.

Student Advocacy Groups Urge Agencies and Borrowers to Help Students. Student and educator groups such as the American Federation of Teachers and the Student Borrower Protection Center wrote to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos asking her to utilize the powers granted to her during a national emergency to assist student borrowers. According to the letter, DeVos has the authority to halt forced collection of student debt, extend military benefits, recertify borrowers’ income-driven repayment plans and more under the 2003 HEROES Act. The groups also wrote to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to call for more oversight and regulation of servicers, who received the third letter written by the groups asking for more transparency and support for borrowers. The letters come as more protections for students are being considered in Congress.

We publish the DC Shuttle each week featuring higher ed news from Washington collected by the New England Council, of which NEBHE is a member. This edition is drawn from the Higher Education Update in the Council’s Weekly Washington Report of March 23, 2020. For more information, please visit:


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