WASHINGTON — Fifty-three organizations came together today to urge Congress to better support students who are unexpectedly attending classes online due to the coronavirus pandemic in a letter spearheaded by Higher Learning Advocates. Julie Peller, Executive Director of Higher Learning Advocates, made the following statement to emphasize the importance of access to reliable internet for today’s students.
“Many of today’s students depend on college campuses not only for stable housing, reliable sources of food, and other campus resources, but also for connectivity to the internet so they are able to participate in online learning. Once off campus, many students may lack access to a stable and affordable internet connection.
That’s why we, along with fifty-two cosigners, urge Congress to address the lack of broadband access for many students across the country by increasing funding for and access to the E-Rate program and adjusting the Lifeline program to allow students who are Pell Grant-eligible to access services through the program.”
Read the letter to Congress and view the full list of cosigners here, or read the text below.
April 24, 2020
Dear Speaker Pelosi, Leader McCarthy, Leader McConnell, and Leader Schumer:
When college campuses closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students lost more than access to lecture halls and student unions; they lost stable housing, reliable sources of food, and connectivity to the internet for their learning.
Access to technology is crucial for today’s students—96 percent of students report using the internet for school work, but a study by Microsoft in 2019 indicated that over 160 million American households don’t have broadband internet. Lack of broadband disproportionately affects low-income communities, rural populations, and tribal nations. Because today’s students who relied on their college campuses for access to Wi-Fi and have now lost access to campus and other institutions such as libraries or coffee shops where they may have had internet connection, they are now facing new and overwhelming challenges to their learning. These challenges may cause students to lag behind in their coursework, drop out for the semester, or choose to not return in future semesters.
The most common issue given for not having reliable high-speed internet access is the cost of services. As such, we are asking you to act swiftly to support today’s students by bolstering broadband connectivity for postsecondary students through COVID-19 emergency response legislation.
Specifically, Congress should provide increased funding for the E-Rate program—in addition to adding more money for the program for K-12 schools and libraries—and expand E-Rate to benefit students enrolled in postsecondary education. This additional appropriation should allow institutions of higher education to facilitate mobile broadband hotspots to higher education students with financial need.
Secondly, Congress should make changes to the Lifeline program by allowing students who are eligible for the Pell Grant to be eligible for services through the program. Appropriations to the Lifeline program should also be increased to facilitate a larger dollar amount of services that are covered for program recipients, including broadband.
Supporting today’s students by providing access to resources that are critical for their learning—including broadband—is paramount during and in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis. We ask you to make necessary changes and appropriations to E-Rate and Lifeline at this time to support today’s students, and thank you in advance for your consideration.
Higher Learning Advocates
Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges
Achieving the Dream
ACT Center for Equity in Learning
Breakthrough Central Texas
Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP)
Chiefs for Change
Coalition on Adult Basic Education
Complete College America
Cornell Student Assembly
Distance Education Accrediting Commission
Eye to Eye National
Higher Education Policy Program at New America
Higher Learning Commission
Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice
Hon. George Miller, Former Member of Congress
Institute for Higher Education Policy
Latino U College Access
Middle States Commission on Higher Education
National Center for Learning Disabilities
National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment
National Skills Coalition
New England Commission of Higher Education
Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Northwestern Health Sciences University
Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
St. Louis Graduates
State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO)
Student Veterans of America
Swipe Out Hunger
The Campaign for College Opportunity
The Education Trust
The Graduate! Network, Inc.
The Learning Accelerator
The Opportunity Network
University of Louisville
WASC Senior College & University Commission (WSCUC)