Higher Learning Advocates Comments on Critical Higher Ed Provisions for Today’s Students in Leader McConnell’s COVID-19 Package

Higher Learning Advocates Comments on Critical Higher Ed Provisions for Today’s Students in Leader McConnell’s COVID-19 Package

WASHINGTON (March 19, 2020) — Julie Peller, Executive Director of Higher Learning Advocates, made the following statement in response to the higher education provisions included in Leader McConnell’s COVID-19 package:

“Higher Learning Advocates is pleased to see Leader McConnell’s inclusion of several higher education provisions within the COVID-19 response package that, if passed, will significantly improve today’s students’ paths forward in light of this national emergency. Many of these provisions were outlined in a letter sent to Congress earlier this week from Higher Learning Advocates and 52 cosigning organizations detailing similar provisions to support today’s students in response to COVID-19.

Specifically, we applaud the inclusion of the allowable use of Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (SEOG) for emergency aid for students impacted by college closures or restrictions, which has long been a major part of HLA’s policy platform. Particularly during this time, students may face unpredictable expenses, including, food, housing, and transportation costs.

We also applaud the inclusion of Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) flexibility, which would allow for any credits attempted but not completed to not be counted toward a student’s academic standing. This provision will ensure that today’s students can focus on their health and well-being without losing their academic standing and ability to receive federal student aid.

In addition, the provisions to exempt students impacted by school closure, or those who have withdrawn, from paying back Pell Grants or student loans ensure today’s students will not face unnecessary financial or student aid penalties.

Finally, the provision to allow students who qualify for Federal Work Study to continue to receive funds, even if they are unable to fulfill their work-study obligations due to campus closures, will allow students access to wages they need during this difficult period.

We are especially encouraged by the bipartisan recognition that today’s students need support in this time as provisions in Senator Murray and Chairman Scott’s Supporting Students in Response to Coronavirus Act also address these critical issues.

Unfortunately, the package also includes a sweeping waiver authority that may undermine critical quality protections for students and fails to include the necessary additional funds for students and institutions to properly support students in this time. Like many other areas of the economy, students and higher education will face new and unprecedented costs in this time, and failing to infuse additional funds may leave today’s students in financial peril. Further, the package does not include necessary relief for the 43 million student loan borrowers in this country. As this package continues to move through Congress, we urge these issues to be addressed.

We look forward to continued bipartisan action to swiftly pass and enact legislation to support today’s students during these uncertain times, and are encouraged with these provisions as a starting point for discussions.”

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Higher Learning Advocates is a bipartisan non-profit organization that advocates for solutions to break down systemic barriers and support the success of today’s students in their pursuit of education and skills development beyond high school. We advance federal policies that create transparent pathways to success, incentivize innovation, protect students and taxpayers, and improve student outcomes.