March 2020

The $2 trillion federal stimulus package to stabilize households and businesses that have taken a hit with the COVID-19 outbreak includes measures targeting college students and the institutions that serve them.

Congressional action on the plan that was agreed to early Wednesday morning is expected soon; it has the support of the White House as well as Democratic and Republican leaders in the Senate and House.

The package includes $14 billion in new funding for higher education. Of that amount, $12.6 billion will be distributed to institutions, which are required to use half for costs facing students and half for cost borne by institutions. The final language has more than twice the funding that the Senate had put into the bill it had released on the weekend.

For the last several days, students, staff and faculty at Minnesota Private College Council member institutions have been reaching out with calls and emails to their members of Congress, asking them to act now to preserve students’ opportunities and the institutions that serve them. More than 5,100 emails were sent through an action alert tool that the Council had set up for member institutions to share, for example. This effort came after national higher education groups, including the National Association for Independent Colleges and Universities, worked together through the American Council on Education to ask for immediate action on a set of emergency initiatives.

One important area addressed in the package is a requirement that states not cut any previous support to institutions of higher education or need-based grant programs for students unless they receive a waiver for extraordinary economic loss. Another key provision is a six-month suspension of federal student loan payments.

The package should be finalized in the coming day or two. For the latest on what is included, consult Inside Higher Ed or The Chronicle of Higher Education.

By John Manning