June 12, 2020

Van Hollen, Cardin, Colleagues Urge Senate Leadership to Give Higher Education Students and Institutions Much-Needed Relief in Upcoming COVID-19 Legislation

U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin (both D-Md.) joined colleagues in urging Senate leadership to include $47 billion in financial support for students and institutions of higher learning in the upcoming coronavirus relief package. 

"Higher education provides a ladder of economic opportunity to our nation’s students while also building a globally competitive workforce. Colleges and universities are also pillars of communities,” the senators wrote in their letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. “Across the entire higher education sector, institutions last year directly employed 3.6 million individuals. Additionally, research universities are at the forefront in searching for scientific solutions to some of society’s greatest challenges, including COVID-19. These immense contributions to society are at grave risk without additional support.” 

“Students are facing complex financial emergencies that threaten their ability to remain on their path to degree completion,” the senators continued. “The needs are particularly pronounced for students of color, low-income students, veterans, and first generation college students. Colleges and universities have taken immediate steps to protect individual health by shifting to remote learning platforms so students can maintain academic progress during the disruption, but face massive increases in expenses combined with a precipitous decline in revenue.”

In their letter, the senators also emphasized the substantial costs and losses already faced by institutions of higher education as enrollment declines and state cuts jeopardize the financial vitality of schools. To meet the needs of these schools and their students during this tumultuous time, the senators requested that significant additional emergency relief be provided by Congress, and that schools receive the flexibility they need to use the funding most effectively within their communities.

"This funding will be critical to universities and students that now face dire financial circumstances. I would like to sincerely thank the Senators for fighting for financially vulnerable students and working to ensure that they continue to have the opportunity to obtain their degrees," said University of Maryland College Park President Wallace D. Loh. 

"Congress must continue supporting institutions of higher education. We serve a critical role in preparing America's future workforce and the economic downturn due to COVID-19 has tested our ability to meet the needs of students.  While we are resilient and adapting to this challenging environment, there remains serious financial uncertainty," said Bowie State University President Dr. Aminta Breaux. 

“As our nation continues to work on recovering from the impacts of COVID-19, institutions of higher education and members of our campus community continue to grapple with the financial impacts of this virus. I fully support Senators Cardin and Van Hollen in their advocacy on behalf of Maryland’s students, faculty and staff,” said Salisbury University President Charles A. Wight.

“The stories we have heard have opened many eyes on campus to the hardships our students are experiencing while trying to keep their studies on track. The financial challenges continue and, for many of our students, are deepening because of the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Students desperately want to continue their studies; expanded funding to help our future leaders continue their education with fewer financial worries is essential,” said Frostburg State University President Dr. Ronald Nowaczyk. 

Van Hollen and Cardin were joined in sending the letter by U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).

The full text of the letter is available here.