Resetting the Higher Education Landscape
Without additional support, the coronavirus outbreak will challenge our institutions and their missions in the months and years to come.
FOR THE PAST SEVERAL MONTHS, THE HIGHER education landscape has fundamentally shifted due to COVID-19. Almost all community colleges have had to change their modes of instruction from face-to face to completely online models. The disruptions to daily life will have a significant impact for the foreseeable future. On the horizon, state budgets will be significantly hampered as they deal with the ramifications of lost tax revenue. While community colleges as a sector routinely receive fewer public resources per student than other public institutions, rescissions or reductions in funding will likely threaten the ability of our colleges to meet their critical mission.
In March, Congress and the administration were able to pass stimulus legislation (the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act or Stimulus 3). This package provides funds for higher education, institutions, and students. For more information, see the analysis written by ACCT General Counsel Ira Shepard, but it is important to recognize that our institutions will need additional resources in the months and years ahead.
Why is it so critical that colleges receive more resources? The institutional allocation from Stimulus 3 is insufficient to cover all of our colleges’ financial losses and expenditures during this period. We have heard from several institutions that when they moved instruction online, the college purchased hardware for their students to allow them to continue their studies. These costs are significant, and the student share of Stimulus 3 cannot be used to defray these expenses. A significant number of community colleges with residence halls also had to refund students for their room and board costs; in some cases the refunds were larger than the institutional share in Stimulus 3.
The financial strain on colleges will only continue to grow if additional aid is not forthcoming in the form of another stimulus package for higher education. ACCT and the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) are leading an advocacy effort to garner additional stimulus funds in a forthcoming package for institutions, students, and job training programs.
Additional funds will be critical to ensure that colleges continue to carry out their mission. The advocacy priorities for this proposed legislation come in five different buckets: (1) institutional support, (2) student support, (3) job training, (4) support for student loan borrowers, and (5) tax credits for students. More details about each area follow; for updates and to take action to support these priorities, I urge you to contact your legislators using action.acct.org.
While the $14 billion for higher education in the CARES Act will help, far more is needed to make colleges whole. We are asking for an additional $46.6 billion for higher education to stabilize institutions’ budgetary gaps resulting from COVID-19.
We are also asking Congress to provide an additional $5 billion in student support through the Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (SEOG), with an emphasis on institutions that serve the largest numbers of low-income students.
Community colleges will play a critical role in providing a pipeline of workers in essential sectors and in retraining workers to help the economy recover. As such, we are asking for $1 billion per year for at least two years in dedicated job training funding for community colleges.
Support for Student Loan Borrowers
This pandemic will likely leave students in dire financial constraints and a sagging economy, so we support providing additional relief, including loan forgiveness, for borrowers — and particularly for low-debt and low-income borrowers.
Tax Credits for Students
We additionally support enhancing tax provisions that can support affected community college students, including the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) and Lifetime Learning Credit so our institutions can better serve students at a time when they need it most.
For additional information about the community college stimulus priorities, visit www.acct.org/advocacy.
It is vital that trustees and college leaders continue to push for community college priorities. Make your voice heard by reaching out to your member of Congress and talking about these key issues. Request a call or video conference with your legislator and talk about the pressing issues important to your institution. To keep updated on key legislative items, sign up for the Latest Action in Washington alerts by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.