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Where Higher Education Fits in the Congressional Stimulus Negotiations

Written by Lincoln Vander Veen

August 18, 2020

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Congressional leaders are debating three overarching proposals to continue COVID-19 pandemic-related emergency assistance, including funds for higher education.

To date, Congress has approved roughly $3 trillion in COVID-19 pandemic-related emergency assistance, but nearly everyone agrees more must be done. Congressional leaders and the Trump Administration are now negotiating the terms of another financial stimulus package to further offset the consequences of the pandemicWe’ve all grown familiar with issues like enhanced federal unemployment insurance and direct stimulus payments to Americans. What is less known, however, is what the higher education sector needs as campuses across the country deal with financial losses and additional expenses related to the pandemic 

First, some background. Congressional leaders are debating overarching proposals at this point: H.R. 6800the HEROES Actpassed by the House in May and the HEALS Act, introduced in the Senate in July. A third proposal, the Coronavirus Childcare and Education Relief Act (CCERA), legislation introduced by Senators Chuck Schumer and Washington’s Patty Murray, reflects the education priorities of Senate Democrats. The three proposals treat higher education very differently.  

The HEROES Act provides $37 billion for higher education and the HEALS Act $29 billion. Interestingly, the CCERA Act provides $132 billion. Seattle University and other colleges and universities and higher education associations across the country have been communicating with congressional leaders for months with the same ask: $46.6 billion. That is the estimated additional student need and institutional losses to higher education nationwide, according to the American Council on Education in its letter to congressional leaders earlier this month  

So what will the stimulus legislation ultimately look like? Unfortunately, we don’t know. In fact, its possible Congress and the Administration won’t agree on a legislative proposal at all. What we do know is that Seattle University and campuses and students throughout the country have been hard hit by COVID-19 and financial relief is needed now.  

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